WHILE the motormouth campaign managers of Hage Geingob and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana fought it out in public, Jerry Ekandjo’s foot soldiers continued their work quietly among the Swapo faithful, resulting in a major shift within the race for the party’s vice presidency.It is no secret that Ekandjo has the ambition to become Swapo’s number one and ultimately the country’s leader.
At the November 2007 congress, Ekandjo’s supporters were already ‘all systems go’ to challenge Geingob for the party’s vice-presidency but withdrew at the eleventh hour. This was done “in the interest of party unity”.
At that stage some within Swapo warned that it would have been ‘suicidal’ for Ekandjo to stand especially since unity in the party was fragile due to the shenanigans that led to Hidipo Hamutenya leaving Swapo and President Hifikepunye Pohamba being declared as the preferred candidate.
At that congress the keyword was ‘guided democracy’ and it was introduced by the Swapo Party Youth League, who also flatly opposed any additional nominations from the floor.
The same congress also saw the late John Pandeni withdraw against Iivula-Ithana in the race for the Secretary General position.
So there was a plan and it dates back years and not months as some of Ekandjo’s opponents would make themselves believe.
To her credit, Iivula-Ithana also played her cards well at that congress and Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, who dared to stand against her, has since become history.
But the race between Geingob, Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo has now reached the home stretch. There is no holding back any longer. Therefore Ekandjo’s bullish attitude. He knows very well that it is now or never. But so too for Geingob and Iivula-Ithana.
The fact that Utoni Nujoma has moved for the Secretary General position has finally confirmed as many speculated about a possible Nujoma dynasty. But about that, some other time.
For now the waterfall of leaks and the nitpicking and mudslinging that characterised the 2004 campaign within the party has re-emerged. This includes the re-emergence of a faceless character calling himself ‘Ananias Nghifitikeko’ who previously used e-mails for a smear campaign against some candidates. This time Nghifitikeko is even on Facebook and has started attacking certain individuals.
Unfortunately the uncomradely kerfuffling is not helping to improve democracy within the party. Previous experience has taught us that too much factionalism can take its toll.
Of course, as in any other competition of this magnitude, there are bound to be squabbles and divisions but it should not be allowed to reach the level of political buffoonery we experienced in 2004.
The Swapo vice presidency race should be about what each candidate can offer to the country first and also to the party. Remember even though some in Swapo feel that what happens within the party is the prerogative of the party, when Swapo sneezes the rest of the country gets a cold. We can’t argue this fact away.
We should be looking at what each of the candidates will bring to the table in terms of: Benefits for the country? Their strengths and weaknesses? Is the individual a person in his/her own right or ultra-Swapoist? If not how would that affect the country under the ‘rule’ of such a person?
Who of the three is a pragmatist who can link theory and practice? Who is in the centre? And how will their ideas promote democracy in the country and advance us in terms of bread-and-butter issues?
Those opposed to Geingob claim that under him democracy will basically mean the ability by a small group of people to purchase and to own while under Ekandjo we might see democratic centralism which will make the ruling party stronger than it was even under former leader Sam Nujoma.
The debate should be such that, once the congress comes, those who represent the grassroots will have a clear idea of where to put their cross.