Ngurare can be to Swapo be what Moses was to the Israelites (Part 1)
22 September 2021 | Opinion
They say there is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us. But the trick is that it is never easy to tell which of us ought to reform the rest of us. Swapo holds its elective congress next year. the leadership that will be elected at that congress will lead Swapo into the 2024 presidential and National Assembly elections.
Swapo is going to that congress neck-deep in a leadership crisis, and more divided than ever before. If liberation struggle icons like Andimba Toivo Ya Toivo and Moses Garoëb were to come back today, they would certainly not recognize Swapo, thanks to Hage Geingob's slate politics and his not so inspiring Harambee doctrine.
It all started with that ill-fated 2017 elective congress, where money, not the constitution of Swapo, decided who should win. Delegates were bribed and handsomely paid to vote the way they did. Slate politics replaced the constitution. The biggest casualty, however, has turned out to be Swapo itself.
Whether next year’s congress will succeed to repair the collateral damages Swapo has suffered since 2017 remains to be seen. Sadly, the unwillingness to address those damages and plot the way forward to save Swapo is not there. Next year’s congress may further sink Swapo deeper in the political quagmire it now finds itself, if it fails to take corrective measures, however unpleasant they may be to some.
Delegates will discuss and decide on many touchy and thorny issues. But all eyes will be on who becomes the vice-president of Swapo. That person will be Swapo’s presidential candidate in the 2024 national elections. Here then comes in Dr Elijah Ngurare. If Swapo wants to reclaim its former glory and dominance, Ngurare is now to Swapo what Moses was to the Israelites.
With the youth leaving Swapo in droves, the party that heroically fought to set Namibia free faces extinction. In 2019, Swapo lost its revered two/thirds majority. In 2020, it lost five regions it once controlled and key municipalities it once dominated.
The coming into being of the Affirmative Repositioning, AR, and later the Independent Patriots for Change, IPC, had Swapo limping in the past elections. Rampant corruption has cost Swapo dearly. The Fishrot scandal has turned Swapo into a laughing stock and a butt of many savage jokes and cartoons.
The leadership has lost the moral high ground to successfully navigate Swapo out of this mess. Swapo needs someone who can appeal to the youth, someone who is not tainted by corruption. Many people have pinned their hopes on Ngurare. He is not corrupt. And fighting corruption will be a common thread that will run through election manifestos of all political parties. Swapo can therefore not afford to front suspected thieves. What happened at the 2017 congress should never repeat itself.
Geingob's term ends on 21 March 2025. He will still be president of Swapo until 2027, that is if next year’s congress does not pass a vote of no confidence in him. This, of course, is wishful thinking. Some Harambee hacks are already talking about a third-term for Geingob in dark corners. He says he doesn’t “want it.” Political pundits say he is just kite-flying.
There are two slates running this country. All are odd collections and combinations, anchored not so much on trust but on paranoia and insecurity. The first slate is running Swapo. The second is running the State. In both slates, the driver is dangerously President Geingob himself.
When Geingob introduced his slate a few weeks before the 2017 congress, Geingob, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Sophia Shaningwa and Marco Hausiku (may his soul rest in eternal peace) were the Top Four, as president, vice-president, secretary-general and deputy secretary-general respectively.
Geingob has always been an uninspiring advocate of “corresponding responsibilities” and ranking at party and government levels. He always had himself in mind to satisfy his insatiable lust for power. On two occasions in the 1990s, he unsuccessfully challenged the late Hendrick Witbooi, who was Swapo vice-president then. Geingob wanted to become vice-president of Swapo when he was prime minister.
When he was finally elected Swapo vice-president in 2012, he convinced then President Hifikepunye Pohamba to also make him prime minister. The reason? He wanted to be number two both at party and government levels. Sure enough, his will was signed, sealed and delivered, in Swapo and in government.
Nahas Angula, then prime minister, was conveniently demoted and parked at the ministry of defence. Sources had it that he was told not to worry, as he would be Swapo vice-president, come the 2017 congress. Honest and loyal as a person that he always is, he agreed. He regretted it later.
Between 2012 and 2017, Geingob secretly shuffled his cards. But he kept Angula on the hook, telling him that things were going to work out politically well for him as agreed shortly after the 2012 congress. Things did not work out that way.
When Geingob released his slate that he would introduce at the 2017 congress, Angula’s name featured nowhere. This omission fell like a ton of bricks on Angula. He bolted and vowed to stand on his own. He did stand and lost, largely because he didn’t have money to bribe delegates. There rest is history.
Naturally and as vice-president of Swapo, one would have expected Nandi-Ndaitwah to be appointed as vice-president of the country so that “responsibilities at party and government levels could correspond” accordingly. But Geingob, being the political chameleon that he has always been, morphed himself into something else. Suddenly, he would no longer entertain his own doctrine of “corresponding responsibilities.”
He appointed Nangolo Mbumba as vice-president instead. For Mbumba, this was a payback cheque. For, he vandalised the constitution of Swapo before the 2017 congress to make Geingob what he is today. To keep her chewing meatless bones, Geingob appointed Netumbo as deputy prime minister and minister of international relations and cooperation. Sources had it that she almost declined the offer, saying that she could not work under Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, whom she regarded as junior to her in terms of party ranking. Wisemen advised her to take the offer. She did.
But there are now strong indications that she will not feature anywhere in Geingob’s slate at next year’s congress. She has sensed this omission and has started putting her team together to go it alone, with or without Geingob’s backing. (To be continued…)
· Asser Ntinda is the former editor of Namibia Today, Swapo’s official newspaper. He edited the paper for 20 years.