Geingob tight-lipped on Swapo presidency

The president says the Swapo rank and file will know in the fullness of time what his decision is regarding the party presidency.

26 May 2021 | Politics

STAFF REPORTER

WINDHOEK

President Hage Geingob is playing his cards close to his chest as far as his ambitions for the Swapo presidential position are concerned, amid a looming elective congress slated for next year.

Geingob’s term as party president expires going into that congress, but his term as country president does not end until March 2025.

The congress will seek to elect the party candidate for the 2024 national presidential election, meaning if anyone else is elected as Swapo president at the congress they will automatically become the party’s official candidate.

But if Geingob, who is a firm believer in one centre of power for party and country, remains party president after congress, the Swapo succession policy would dictate that whoever emerges as party vice-president would become the party’s official candidate for the 2024 national presidential election.

‘Wait and see’

When Geingob’s predecessor Hifikepunye Pohamba’s term as state president ended in 2015, he resigned as a party president and Geingob, the then vice-president of the party, took over as head of Swapo in an acting capacity until the elective congress of 2017 confirmed him into the position.

Pohamba’s decision to quit the party position was mainly to meet the conditions of the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership, which came with a N$50 million cash windfall.

In a nine-word response this week, Geingob told Namibian Sun that he had not yet decided whether to stand for re-election.

"Wait and see. That issue never crossed my mind,” the president said.

Geingob’s deputy in Swapo, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, is in the frame to contest for candidacy for national president and will seek to retain her position as vice-president if Geingob makes himself available for re-election as party president.

Guided democracy

Following the fallout at the 2017 congress and divisions that have ensued since then, some in the ruling party have called for an extraordinary congress to be held so that the current top leadership of the party can be removed.

The calls heightened after Swapo lost significant votes in national elections held in 2019 and 2020. The Fishrot corruption saga, and the top leadership’s year-long refusal to remove accused persons from its central committee and politburo, also eroded trust in the leadership by some in the party.

At the Swapo central committee meeting held last weekend, Geingob lashed out at those seeking to remove him and his fellow top-four leaders of the party.

“Some, we understand are also going around collecting signatures to remove the elected president of the Swapo Party. It is sad that those who profess to know the tradition and culture of the Swapo Party and are crediting themselves as cadres of high ideological standing and discipline, today engage in such copycat and reactionary activities which they obviously have borrowed from the happenings in our neighbor, South Africa,” he said.

In the same speech, the president spoke favourably about “guided democracy”, to the surprise of those in attendance.

“Regarding inter-party democratic contestation, it is true that Comrade Peter llonga, a tried and tested, loyal revolutionary cadre, may his soul rest in peace, maybe in his good wisdom, foresaw some of the challenges we are facing and argued against Swapo creating a culture of contesting elections, at three different Swapo Party congresses.

“Even some SPYL leaders at the time, warned against this trend and advocated for ‘guided democracy’ in Swapo,” he told attendees.

It is believed that Geingob, who is understood to have met Swapo regional coordinators before the central committee meeting, may seek to be endorsed as party president without having to contest again – using the guided democracy narrative.

His predecessors too, Pohamba and Sam Nujoma, were never challenged as incumbents in congress elections and Geingob may use this as reason why he must be accorded the same treatment.

“He is trying to send out feelers to the public, basically saying the way forward is guided democracy it will not bring the current divisions. And this the incumbent wishes should be respected to maintain peace and unity as a pretext to get his way,” a Swapo insider opined yesterday.

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