The stage is set for the Swapo Party’s vice presidential campaign between the early pace setters, the incumbent, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila is Nandi-Ndaitwah’s junior in the party hierarchy and the latter is Amadhila’s junior in government, one being the vice president in the party and other Prime Minister in government. But, their positions will be of little relevance in the battle for supremacy, as the camps are crystallising even before the weekend’s Central Committee meeting that will finalise the nominations for the November congress. There are just two months and three weeks to go before Swapo decides on who its candidate for the 2024 Presidential election would be.
Both camps are said to have consolidated themselves with notable heavy weights present in both camps. The Harambee slate has disintegrated all together, with its members having joined either side of the divide.
The Windhoek Observer is reliably informed by insiders who spoke on condition of anonymity that influential names in the Nandi-Ndaitwah camp are Veikkoh Nekundi, Ephraim Nekongo (SPYL), Erki Nghimtina, former minister of mines, Anna Hipondoka, Sophia Shaningwa, Levi Katoma, Sirrka Ausiku, James Sankwasa, Lucia Witbooi, Ipumbu Shiimi, Christine Hoebes, Walde Ndevashiya, Usko Nghaamwa, Otto Iipinge, Marius Sheya, Tuliameni Kalomo, Hilma Nikanor, Percy Msika, Werner Iita, Ambassador Kaire Mbuende, Laura McCleod, Charles Namoloh and Kornelia Shilunga among others.
Some of these names have illustrious struggle credentials and can win support for the incumbent vice president. The support base of the Netumbo group is evenly spread across some regions, but does not reflect a cadre that can be pointed as originating from the Karas, Otjozondjupa and Erongo regions, also it only features three regional governors from the Ohangwena, Kunene and Kavango West regions.
On the other hand, the Saara group has Erginus Endjala, Penda Ndakolo, Laurence Sampofu, Pio Nganate, James Uerika as governors among its midst, bolstered by the secretary general of the National Union of Namibian Workers, Job Muniaro and the general secretary of the Namibia Public Workers Union, Petrus Nevonga. Other notable figures in the camp are Erastus Utoni, Erastus Nekongo, Loide Kasingo, Peya Mushelenga, Paulus Kapia, Tommy Nambahu, Tjekero Tweya, Petrina Haingura, Eveline Naweses-Tayele, Magret Mensah Williams, Martha Namundjebo Tilahun, Armas Amukwiyu, Mathew Mumbala, Pendukeni Ithana and Obeth Kandjoze. Also, the secretary of the Elders Council and of the Women’s Council are part of this group.
The two camps have already taken most influential figures coming to the congress and it remains to be seen what spoils the late comers to the contest such as Jerry Ekandjo, Tom Alweendo, Tobie Aupindi and Frans Kapofi can share if any. All four wish that they are nominated by the central committee. However, Kapofi will not be in the CC meeting as he is not a member to campaign for himself, if he has not done the job ahead of the meeting.
Declaring his readiness to run, Tom Alweendo was quoted in today’s edition of The Namibian “with my background in economics, I thought I could contribute towards improving the economy. The biggest challenge we have right now is the need to grow the economy and tackle the high unemployment rate”. Kapofi told The Namibian “many have approached me [to stand]. I will not tell you the names of the people, but this issue comes from last year in May. I told them those things have nothing to do with me. Now, it has gone beyond the calls of young people0”.
The Minister of Defence and a long-time Swapo technocrat was also quoted in New Era as saying the Helmut Amendments cannot hold him back. Kapofi has worked for Swapo and the government in many different capacities. He served under all three presidents as Cabinet Secretary during President
Sam Nujoma’s rein and that of Hifikepunye Pohamba and as Minister in the Presidential Affairs and Minister of Defence under Geingob. He boasts an illustrious career, but he may just be joining the race too late.
Alweendo on his part has shown that he is a capable technocrat and is meticulous in addressing complex situations with an eye for detail. But, that finesse may be lacking in his political dealings.
The composition of the teams is such that there is little room for error, as well as the time left to the congress does not give any luxury of falling on your laurels. As for others still wishing for vice president nomination such as Jerry Ekandjo, many political analysts agree, that he is wasting his time or at worst will only confuse the race.
Aupindi, they say, must be careful as Swapo history tells us that once you show ambition without being anointed by party heavy weights/stalwarts, you risk your political career thrown into the wilderness. This congress can be a rude awakening but perhaps too late for sorries for a promising young politician like Aupindi, the analyst opined.
Aupindi was adamant on NBC ‘One-on-One’ programme this week that any qualifying member of the Swapo Party can contest for a position when asked if he will run for the vice presidency, saying he has consulted widely for support. The race is so tight, they said, that the contest can go for a second round, as has happened in 2004 between Hifikepunye Pohamba, Hidipo Hamutenya and Nahas Angula.
Although President Hage Geingob’s influence over the vice president contest may have become minimal, he may have a casting influence that may sway the process when it goes to a second round.