Netumbo addresses Geingob non-endorsement
Nandi-Ndaitwah supporters have slammed Geingob for allegedly breaking the long-held Swapo ‘tradition’ of incumbent party heads endorsing their deputies to succeed them – either as party or country president.
At the 2012 congress, then party president Hifikepunye Pohamba backed Geingob, while Pohamba himself was endorsed in 2004 by Sam Nujoma who headed the party at the time.
Geingob picked Nandi-Ndaitwah as his preferred party vice-president at the 2017 congress, but did not do so this time - perhaps when the latter needed it most.
The pair campaigned together on the controversial Team Harambee slate, whose candidates all won, amid allegations of irregular funding.
This time around, Geingob did not back Nandi-Ndaitwah, with claims swirling that he is silently backing Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila for the vice-president position. Geingob has consistently denied backing any candidate, saying he wanted all of them to battle it out on level turf.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said: “There are a lot of new things happening in Swapo, including the way internal campaigns are being held. As time goes, certain things must change. I’ve no reason to doubt the sincerity of his decision [not to endorse anyone]”.
My own merits
Geingob’s recent attempt to hold a town-hall meeting in Windhoek two days before the congress kicks off was seen as an attempt to unduly influence its outcome. He called it off after a myriad of complaints – particularly from the Nandi-Ndaitwah camp.
During an interview on The Agenda, which airs on Sunday, Nandi-Ndaitwah said while she campaigned on Geingob's slate in 2017, she won the vice-president position on her own.
“I stood at the sixth Swapo congress for the vice-president position and I was voted on my own merits and with my own votes. The same goes for President Geingob.
“I was not a running mate of the president because that would imply that he was voted and then he hand-picked me as his deputy."
“We worked together and campaigned together, but I was voted on my own merits,” she said, adding that there is no bad blood between her and Geingob, despite talks of a fallout between the pair.
“As things stand, I have a good working relationship with the president. I actually think it’s a good thing that he chose not to endorse anyone. It’s good for intra-party democracy when all candidates compete on equal grounds.”
‘I didn’t know about Fishrot’
While Nandi-Ndaitwah has been described by her supporters as ‘the clean’ candidate, she has also been accused of benefitting from the Fishrot scandal, which allegedly funded the Harambee slate.
Asked when she learnt about Fishrot, she said: “I heard about it for the first time when it was reported in the press”.
On potentially benefitting from proceeds of the bribery scheme, she said: “I was part of Team Harambee, but I have not been part of Fishrot. As you know, we worked together in what was called a slate with other candidates for president, vice-president, secretary-general and deputy secretary-general.
“At no point did I have any extra finances that came my way. I’ve been moving in this campaign on my own.”
The winners at the 2017 congress have presided over the losses Swapo suffered in the 2019 and 2020 elections. In 2019, the party lost its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, and the following year, it lost many local authorities to the opposition, including the capital Windhoek and the strategically important coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay.
Nandi-Ndaitwah blamed Fishrot for the losses, saying the scandal was conveniently revealed on the eve of the 2019 elections in order to influence the outcome.
“Fishrot was brought into the public sphere on the eve of elections. Of course, some of the people mentioned [in Fishrot] are party members. The whole thing was designed to influence the election outcome.”
On whether the problem was the timing or the scandal itself, she said: “The fact that it’s in courts now shows that something might indeed have happened”.
The Swapo congress kicks off next Friday, 25 November.
Nandi-Ndaitwah faces Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta for the vice-president position.
Her full interview airs on Sunday at 19:00 on the Namibian Sun Facebook page and YouTube channel, as well as at 21:00 on NTV (DStv channel 285, GOtv channel 94).