Political analysts have chastised the Swapo party for failing to adapt to the political climate of the day by promoting the younger generation within its leadership structures, saying the party still considers those under the age of 50 to be youth, despite the fact that the world is moving towards younger leaders in top leadership positions.
Political analyst Henning Melber notes that the party needs to do more than to ‘’pay lip service’’ to promoting a younger generation and stop defining “younger” as the age group 50 years and above.
Addressing the Swapo Party Youth League congress recently Namibia must ‘’prioritize our young people to become generational leaders’’.
This comes as some seniors in the party eying the three top positions at the Swapo congress at the end of the year have already begun campaigning without any endorsement. They fall outside the general worldview of youth.
Current Swapo Vice President Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Secretary General Sophia Shaningwa have both left the Harambee house of 2017 and are running for re-election in their respective positions.
Melber says, ‘’in times where heads of state are in their mid-30s and show that competency is not limited to old people, Swapo politics needs to enter the 21st century too’’.
According to Rui Tyitende, a political analyst, the current candidates who appear to be leading contenders do not inspire confidence and hope in a nation that is currently facing an economic and social crisis.
‘’Unfortunately, the so-called ‘Helmuth Amendments’ serve as an inhibiting factor to young and competent individuals who would prefer to contest the various leadership positions. Should they remain unchanged, it will cast Swapo as an undemocratic, anti-youth, and anti-change political party that fails to adjust with the current political climate,’’ he said.
In terms of the race for party presidency, Nandi-Ndaitwah and Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila are rumoured to be the frontrunners, with Jerry Ekandjo, Nahas Angula, and Pendukeni Ithana, veterans who have previously run unsuccessfully, also being mentioned.
Melber said any of these candidates are from an ‘’outdated dinosaur generation,’’ thus it would be a suicidal move for the party to seriously consider any of them or anyone else from the first struggle generation, such as Nangolo Mbumba to carry the torch into the future.
‘’They are the past and should gracefully remain in retirement,’’ he asserts.
Melber is also concerned at what he describes as a destructive voting pattern at section, branch, district and regional structures along certain blocks that favoured Nandi-Ndaitwah and Kulkongelwa-Amadthila, and that this pattern would most likely continue at congress.
‘’It is enforcing party internal polarisation and has a very divisive impact on whoever will emerge as the winner. Wounds are created which then have to be healed, and as we know from the past this is a difficult challenge,’’ he contends.
Similarly, Tyitende stated that party officials will vote for candidates who they believe will align with their own political agenda and future.
Tyitende stated that Geingob’s political support for Helmut amendments implies that the President has a preferred candidate who is not Nandi-Ndaitwah or Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
‘’The two perceived leading candidates may perceive this as a sign of no confidence in their leadership capabilities and a possible rift may develop within the party. Should any of these
candidates win the VP position, they might purge the President’s allies in both government and party structures in order to seek vengeance,’’ he opined.
This happened in the past where those aligned to the late Hidipo Hamutenya were either purged or side lined after the 2004 congress as well as Team Swapo after the 2017 congress won by the Harambee team.
Melber believes that it is too late to push for Swapo constitutional amendments that would open the field for younger technocrat politicians.
‘’It is too late to do so now for the next congress. But the congress would take a wise decision easing the requirements and abandoning regulations, which are in favour of continued gerontocracy while the electorate will be in the majority composed of born frees,’’ he said.
No Chance for New Candidates
The analysts are convinced that any candidate proposed by the president at the congress or ahead of them stand no chance against the two front-runners.
Geingob, according to Tyitende, lacks the political capital to fundamentally influence the outcome of the VP position within his party.
He said, ‘’the current level of uncertainty is good as the nomination and election of candidates should be open for all those that qualify, including the position of President.’’
Meanwhile, another analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said that constitutional amendments should be spearheaded by party members because it’s not about the President but the party, thus if left in only one person’s hands it is not in line with democratic principles.
‘’I think they have to go for a collective approach and lobbying instead of one person pushing it, then it will appear as if he has an agenda against certain candidates. Further these amendments will definitely open up the pool of people that will want to throw themselves in the race,’’ he said.
Kamwanayah however said that a new candidate to be announced before congress might have a chance, as he believes the president has the capacity to influence voting.
He adds, however it is not automatic that all party members and leadership will be in agreement with this decision.
Kamwanya further said the most determinant of whether one will win or not might be based on what camp they belong to.
‘’Everything will be determined by the nature of division when it comes to the camps, and we know now that the camps they belong to might be a determinant factor for them to make or not, it also depends on the nature and tightness of alliance formed will amount to a sustained election campaign,’’ he said
In response to claims that Nandi-Ndaitwah and Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila are party princesses set for the throne, he stated, that the party constitution does not state that this is the year for a female president.
‘’It’s open for everybody but there are those talks that the party has been dominated by male
leaders, especially in the position of president and vice so now would be the right time to change gear in terms of gender dynamics but the constitution favours any particular gender,’’ he said. In terms of the other candidates, he stated that division has tarnished their reputation and that it will be a tall order for them as age counts against them, and given that they were a part of the previous election, which they lost, they will not run again.