By Shinovene Immanuel | 27 May 2022
CURRENT and former Swapo leaders may not meet the requirements to compete for ruling party top positions such as president, vice president and secretary general if Swapo’s constitution is not changed.
This is according to a Swapo think tank research document, which was presented to the politburo and central committee last week.
“If the [Swapo] constitution is not amended to remove those gatekeeper texts, then the procedural fairness of the elections is prone to challenge, or the entire leadership of the party is not eligible for election,” the document, which has been seen by The Namibian, reads.
The research states that Swapo, which is failing to include young leaders in its ranks, would be seen as anti-youth and would scare and push the majority of young people away if its constitution is not amended.
The group investigated the so-called ‘Helmut Amendments’ that were added to the Swapo constitution in 2018 to tighten requirements for the top four candidates.
At the time, the architect of the amendments, Helmut Angula, said the changes were meant to block opportunistic leaders with a sinister agenda.
However, the amendments have now divided the party and are seen as systematically sidelining leaders from challenging for top positions.
The current Swapo constitution states that candidates who are vying for top positions should have “consistently and persistently” served as a member of the ruling party’s central committee for 10 years.
To the party’s think tank, “consistently” means without interruption.
The document says during the election session at the party’s congress the presiding officer dissolves the outgoing central committee and allows the election for the incoming central committee to take place.
This involves that Swapo leaders are elected every five years.
The party’s think tank recommends an urgent meeting “to organise an extraordinary congress to amend the party constitution”.
Alternatively, it suggests that the central committee change its session into a congress to amend the constitution because of its composition, which includes regional governors and wing leaders.
“So, considering these comrades are already members of the central committee, it would mean the extraordinary congress is actually just a Swapo central committee transformed into an extraordinary congress,” the think tank says.
It says the words “consistently and persistently” should be removed from the party’s constitution, but being a member of Swapo for 10 to 20 years should still be a requirement for the party’s top positions.
The proposal to remove the restrictive conditions was supported by president Hage Geingob last week, but Swapo’s politburo insisted that the requirements should remain.
“Maintaining the current provisions of the said articles will protect Swapo from infiltration by outsiders who are not in good standing with Swapo over a while because they did not persistently and consistently contribute to the party,” the politburo said.
To some leaders in the party, keeping these rules would exclude potential candidates and favour incumbent Swapo vice-president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila in the succession race.
This may unfold if the definition of “consistently and persistently” is interpreted differently from the think tank’s definition, they believe.
Nandi-Ndaitwah and Kuugongelwa-Amadhila have both served in Swapo’s central committee for more than 10 years.
The two politicians rejected calls to remove the restrictions from the party’s constitution.
Swapo politburo member Tobie Aupindi is in support of Geingob in getting rid of the restrictive requirements.
Ruling party power brokers are testing the waters with other potential candidates to succeed Geingob.
This involves approaching minister of defence and veterans affairs Frans Kapofi and minister of mines and energy Tom Alweendo.
Swapo current constitutional restrictions disqualify Kapofi and Alweendo, since they have not served in the party’s central committee.
Sources say some party members have asked Alweendo whether he would be interested in running for a top position.
Alweendo this week declined to comment.
Kapofi has in the past distanced himself from speculation about being a presidential candidate.
“There is no such a thing. I am not in that line of succession. I don’t even know who is saying that I am the favourite. Who is favouring me? For now, I have not even been made aware,” Kapofi has told Windhoek Observer before.
Minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta has also been linked to one of the top-four positions.
If the restrictions remain, ex-Swapo leaders such as Iivula-Ithana, Nahas Angula, Jerry Ekandjo and Helmut Angula would not qualify to vie for the vice president position.
These individuals have not been part of the central committee since being purged at the 2017 congress.
The failure to remove the amendments could benefit several other leaders who qualify for the vice president position, and who have served in the central committee for more than 10 years.
This includes vice president Nangolo Mbumba, minister of works and transport John Mutorwa, minister of labour, industrial relations and employment creation Uutoni Nujoma, minister of gender equality, poverty eradication and social welfare Doreen Sioka, former Ohangwena governor Usko Nghaamwa, ex-minister Alpheus !Naruseb, minister of home affairs, immigration, safety and security Albert Kawana, former defence minister Charles Namoloh, and Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua.
Several names have been linked to the secretary general position, also known as the chief administrator of the party.
Swapo’s current secretary general, Sophia Shaningwa, may be challenged by Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu who has made peace with Geingob after trying to oust him in 2017.
Businesswoman Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun, who challenged for the deputy secretary general position in 2017, does not currently qualify for this position unless the constitution is amended.
This week, Swapo spokesperson Hilma Nicanor declined to comment on politburo decisions or discussions that are not approved by the central committee.
She said it is public knowledge that the constitution was changed recently (in 2018).
“There is really no need [to change the constitution],” she said.
“The think tank is just a body the party has put in place for the purpose of researching. Research was done. Some ideas were brought for the party to look at. The final decision lies with the party leadership,” she said.
‘OUT OF TOUCH’
Meanwhile, the Swapo think tank has also warned the ruling party against failing to include youth leaders in its ranks.
The leadership and structures of Namibia’s opposition parties are youthful and many of them have been groomed by Swapo, the think tank said.
According to the group, the youthful opposition is vibrant and striking.
“Their campaigns target the youth population, which has little or no knowledge, interest or allegiance in the narratives of the liberation struggle waged by Swapo,” it says.
The think tank says opposition parties have “already caused damage” to Swapo in local and regional elections.
The think tank also touched on how to include veterans who allegedly feel excluded.
“Currently, there is no provision for former members of Namibia’s liberation struggle, especially former members of the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (Plan), within the Swapo structures,” the group says.
The researchers say some members of the liberation struggle and ex-combatants of Plan are keen to stay in Swapo’s structures.
“Even if they are nominated through the normal process, they will not qualify for the top-four positions, because they have never served in the central committee in their lives.”
To boost the morale of veterans, the think tank has recommended that they are accorded recognition at state or Swapo events and given yellow uniforms.
Efforts to get comment from Swapo think tank chairperson Andrew Niikondo were not successful.