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DISCARDED: President Hage Geingob on Monday announced Lucia Witbooi’s withdrawal from the Swapo congress race. 
DISCARDED: President Hage Geingob on Monday announced Lucia Witbooi’s withdrawal from the Swapo congress race. PHOTO: FILE

Swapo insiders: Witbooi quit after feeling alienated

Jemima Beukes
Swapo insiders have claimed that Lucia Witbooi withdrew from the ruling party race for deputy secretary-general after she felt her camp has discarded her in favour of former tourism minister Uahekua Herunga, who is vying for the same position.

Both are in the same campaign group as Swapo vice-president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa, who both seek re-election at congress this weekend.

The camp is said to have been impressed with the command Herunga brings, especially the perceived strong backing from his native Kunene Region.

President Hage Geingob on Monday announced Witbooi’s withdrawal when he officiated the party’s central committee meeting, the last before the current leadership is dissolved at congress.

Witbooi said she decided to “sit out this round to give way for others”.

Yesterday, she neither confirmed nor denied that she copped out of the race because of Herunga being the camp’s preferred candidate, but said she made a conscious decision for the sake of the party.

“I am one of the first intakes of the party school; I was trained by the best. I can analyse and assess to make the best decision,” she said.

‘Overwhelming popularity’

Spokesperson of the Nandi-Ndaitwah campaign, ambassador Kaire Mbuende, said it is difficult to comment on the claim that their camp chose Herunga over Witbooi because she did not reveal her exact reasons for quitting the race on the eve of congress.

In his analysis, he said Witbooi’s withdrawal was influenced by Shaningwa’s “overwhelming popularity” amongst the delegates, which puts Witbooi at a great advantage to win the race as it eliminates the opportunity for a female deputy.

“The system of Swapo is such that we have a zebra-style and if the secretary-general position is taken up by a woman, then there is no way that she [Witbooi] would make it,” Mbuende said.

But according to various Swapo leaders, those who are duly elected will not be stripped of their positions because of their gender. The principle is simply that there must be gender balance in candidature for each position, but election outcomes will not be overturned to achieve such balance.

“My reading of the politics is that the secretary-general would be a woman. I have been travelling and listened to presentations made by the candidates and observed that the response was overwhelming for [Shaningwa]. She is poised for re-election. Lucia has her own reading of the politics,” Mbuende said.

According to him, Shaningwa commands great respect in the majority of the regions - except for Oshana and Oshikoto, where her contender Armas Amukwiyu was the clear favourite.

She has her own

He further dismissed sentiments that Witbooi was used to garner support from the south of the country, saying Nandi-Ndaitwah has earned great support in the south on her own.

“It is not correct to say she was used for the south support. My understanding is that she supports the vice-president. Nandi-Ndaitwah has her own support, having been previously assigned to those regions. There are more people who supporter her on her own terms. You are misreading if you think it would be because of Lucia,” Mbuende said.

Meanwhile, Herunga dismissed claims that Nandi-Ndwaitah’s camp shifted their loyalties to him at the last minute.

“People make allegations to cause unnecessary division. We are all supporters of Nandi-Ndaitwah and Shaningwa. Those claims are not true, Lucia withdrew out of her own conviction to give others a chance.”

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Namibian Sun 2023-12-07

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