Muharukua to battle Venaani for PDM throne

31 March 2021 | Police And Crime

JEMIMA BEUKES

WINDHOEK

A battle for the political reins of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) is simmering, with the party's chief whip in the National Assembly, Vipua Muharukua, said to be preparing for a take-over.

The young Turk has strongly indicated that it is within his right to accept or refuse a nomination to stand against party leader McHenry Venaani in 2024.

But Venaani last week said he is open for an challenge and that anyone who wish to do so must work three times harder than he[Venaani] works for the party.

This comes at a time when the party finds itself in a nasty legal battle which many people believe could have been avoided.

Senior party leaders believe the current state of affairs in the official opposition is due to Venaani’s "autocratic" leadership.

Many party insiders expect the envisioned battle between Venaani and Muharukua to be as fierce as the time when Venaani wrested control from Katuutire Kaura.

At the time, Venaani, who was backed by the youth and Kaura by the elders, said he wanted to revive the party since it was losing votes.

According to party insiders, the same scenario is now repeated, with forces behind Muharukua pushing to do away with what is believed to be Venaani’s “one-man show”.

Swapo’s side-chick

Insiders further say the gazetted status of Leader of Official Opposition held by Venaani is aggravating the divisions in the party.

According to a party senior, this status, which makes Venaani eligible for a number of benefits, will bolster the Landless People’s Movement’s allegation that PDM is in bed with Swapo.

“They are already saying we are Swapo’s side-chick and look now. Venaani did not rest until this thing was gazetted,” she said.

Venaani last week said the leader of the official opposition deserved the perks, whether it was he or anyone else.

Groundwork

PDM Windhoek councillor Ignatius Semba confirmed that there is informal talk about Muhurukua’s candidacy at the next congress.

According to Semba, Muharukua may not be the only candidate but he poses the strongest challenge to Venaani.

“I think one of the key issues is that he is part of the current leadership and has been in parliament since 2015. He has grown in the rank and file of the party and he is also part and parcel of the Venaani administration,” said Semba.

Up for the challenge

Muharukua, when approached for comment, said 2024 was too far away to speculate on what may happen.

He admitted that there are forces pushing for his candidacy, but denied that this has caused a rift between him and Venaani.

“In the end it is my right to accept or refuse a nomination, or to lobby for any position. So those who are saying these things must wait and see they will know in 2024,” he said.

“I am rooted”

Venaani said he was open to any challenge for the party top spot, because that is the environment he has cultivated during his time as leader.

“I am the most successful leader who has ever run the party from 1989. That is the record I have and I will defend that record at the next congress and I tell you, I will win it hands down. This party is growing under my watch; we are concentrating on those things that are important,” he said.

Power to the people

A source close to the top leadership says Muharukua is supported by the party’s heartland, the Kunene Region.

According to this source, this community feels neglected by Venaani’s administration and is eager for someone from its own community to ascend to the throne.

“It is also expected that the Omaheke Region, where Muhuruaka is the party’s assigned leader, will throw their weight behind the young man who they see as the party’s next saviour.”

A sinking ship?

Political analyst Professor Henning Melber says there is a feeling that the party is under increased pressure to maintain its status as official opposition.

According to him, while Venaani managed to reinvent DTA, the emergence of the IPC and LPM is eroding the PDM's position.

He says the fact that the PDM lost parts of the white electorate to the IPC in the last local and regional elections is rubbing salt into its wounds.

“The writing was already on the wall in November 2019, when Geingob's downturn only benefitted Itula, who garnered all Geingob votes. Venaani did not benefit, and PDM only benefited because IPC was not yet a party, so those turning a back on Swapo had to vote for other parties instead.”

This, he said, points to a decline in relevance.

Deja vu

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah says what is happening in the party now is a replay of what happened when Venaani challenged Kaura.

“It's inevitable. Venaani should accept that reality and put up a fight. It's healthy for the party's inner democracy to have him challenged,” he said.

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