THE 2022 Swapo congress slated for November will elect a new party leadership, but most importantly, it will nominate the Swapo candidate for the country’s Presidential election in 2024 to succeed President Hage Geingob. With less than seven months to go before the elective congress, the race seems to be quiet compared to previous congresses.
However, Namibians are starting to wonder as to who may emerge as the eventual successor of Geingob. The only indication at this stage is that Geingob will retain the Swapo presidency and that the race will be for the coveted Vice President position, in which the heir apparent will be elected. The incumbent Vice President Netumbo Nandi- Ndaitwah is the automatic candidate for the position, according to the election rules of Swapo, but things may change and upset the tradition.
Former President Hifikepunye Pohamba, it is believed, remains a strong backer of Nandi-Ndaitwah and would want to see her ascending to the country’s presidency on the Swapo ticket. In the political circles it is speculated that it will cost a fight with Pohamba to push another candidate ahead of Ndaitwah
While the names of Nahas Angula, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Pohamba Shifeta and Nangolo Mbumba have been thrown into the mix, a new candidate seems to be emerging in the form of Frans Kapofi. For anyone to ascend to a higher or influential position in Swapo, the party tradition has been that you ought to have performed an extraordinary assignment for the party and be a trustworthy cadre, who can be trusted with the secrets of the party.
In the case of Founding Father Sam Nujoma’s successor, Hifikepunye Pohamba, he is praised and lauded for accompanying Nujoma on his return home from exile to offer himself to the colonial administration, as a sacrificial lamb, at the start of the armed struggle. This has earned Pohamba the title of one of the most trusted cadres in the party.
After independence, Pohamba was the first Home Affairs Minister, which by tradition in the political scheme of things is the third most senior position at the executive or Cabinet level in the governance hierarchy after the Presidency and Defence.
In the case of Geingob, he brought back Swapo’s flag from exile and was the Director of the party’s election machinery during the first democratic elections supervised by the United Nations. He subsequently became the chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the first Constitution of the Republic of Namibia. He also became the first Prime Minister of the country.
Although he had a fallout with the then President after he was moved to become the Minister of Local Government and Housing, the two eventually made peace and he returned as Prime Minister during Pohamba’s tenure as president, paving the way for his ascendency to the country’s highest office.
In Kapofi’s case, he has served in all key government positions after independence. At the country’s independence, he was among the youthful and firebrand next layer of Swapo leadership, boasting with impressive struggle credential. Post-independence, he served as Secretary to Cabinet, Minister in the Presidency both in Pohamba and Geingob administrations, Minister of Home affairs and now the Minister of Defence.
During his tenure as Minister in the Presidency, he was also tasked to handle the North Korean diplomatic saga that nearly saw Namibia being sanctioned by the United Nations. Last year, he was entrusted by President Geingob to deliver a speech in Parliament on the sensitive and explosive Genocide discussion. Lately, he has been seen close to Geingob, accompanying him on foreign missions, including the recent one to Qatar.
Netumbo, who as the incumbent Vice President is naturally the favourite. However, those pushing for Kapofi belief that supporters of Netumbo will be amenable to throw their weight behind they younger Kapofi.
Kapofi’s biggest challenge however is the Swapo election rules and procedures which requires candidates serving in the top four positions to have been a member of the central committee for more than 10 years.
Just recently, Swapo lawyer Dirk Conradie said that the amendment of Swapo’s constitution will only be possible through constitutional provisions pertaining to the procedural requirements. He was responding to suspended Swapo Okahenge branch coordinator Reinhold Shipwikineni’s request to re-amend the party’s constitution, which was adopted in 2018-2020.
Shipwikineni requested for the re-amendment of Article 15(8), Article 16(8), Article 17(14) and Article 18(8), through his lawyer Kadhila Amoomo in a letter dated 3 February 2022. He additionally demands that an “Enlarge Extraordinary Congress” be held as soon as possible before 25 March 2022 to change the articles which he says are a destruction to the party and its future leadership.
Kapofi, in an interview with the Windhoek Observer newspaper said he is not aware of talks of him succeeding Geingob.
He said that if there is anyone who has aspirations for him to become Namibia’s next president, they should sit down and speak to him about it.
“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? Why should I be the one? There are so many other people. If there are people who want to nominate me they must talk to me and they must tell me why they want to do it. For now, I have not even been made aware,” Kapofi stated.
If Kapofi is being groomed by Geingob, he first need to convince Pohamba, who seems to have put his money on Ndaitwah, who will be the first woman president for Namibia, if she succeeds to become the Swapo Presidential candidate and eventually win the 2024 election.
It is believed that if there is no buy-in from than Ndaitwah, political Pohamba on any other candidate observers speculate that this may result in a repeat of the 2004 congress during which the late Hidipo Hamutenya contested against Pohamba, who was the anointed candidate of Nujoma. ‘’The fight will be ugly.’’
‘’If Geingob does not play his cards right on this one, he will not be able to fix the fallout with Pohamba,’’ a Swapo insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity told the Windhoek Observer.
Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah says it would be a surprise for Kapofi to run for president.
“We have seen him serve in positions such as Secretary to Cabinet and then he was moved to Home Affairs and now Defence minister. That move in itself could be that he was being considered, that maybe he was being aligned to certain areas. It could be that he was being groomed. We however don’t know whether he is being groomed for the upcoming elections or other elections. Let us not forget that he still has to earn the support of other people in the Party. Who is behind in him in terms of the top leadership? These are things to consider”, he said.
If the Swapo Party Constitutional amendments also referred to as the Helmuth amendments are change it may throw the race for both the top four positions and by default the Swapo presidential candidacy wide open with more names thrown in the hat.