Swapo Politburo split over constitutional amendments

The Swapo Party President and Vice President were pitted against each other in the Politburo meeting over whether the controversial ‘Helmut Amendments’ should be endorsed or be relooked.
Hage Geingob and Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwa were in opposing territory as they Politburo differed over the amendments. Ndaitwah, who seem to be favoured by the amendments, argued that the amendments should not be up for any discussions and should just be endorsed. Geingob on the other hand pushed for them to be subjected to a review.

The Swapo Party Central Committee meeting this weekend will now have the enviable task to decisively deal with the amendments that limits members from being elected to the top four positions of the party. The amendments were adopted during the 2018 Congress. The Central Committee will now have the responsibility to decide if they would either be reviewed or just endorsed.

The changes require a candidate standing for the party presidency and vice presidency to have been a member of the party continuously for 30 and 25 years respectively as well as having served for 10 continuous years on the Central Committee and the Politburo.

The Windhoek Observer is reliably informed that the Politburo was divided over the amendments with one group calling for a review and the other saying they were ‘’done and dusted’’ and therefore not up for any discussion.

The sources say President Hage Geingob was of the view that the amendments be relooked as there was a lot of emotion and animosity in the party at the time the amendments were adopted. Among the vocal supporters of Geingob were Katrina Hanse-Himarwa and Tobie Aupindi.

The opposing group was led by the Swapo vice president, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwa supported by Saara Kukongelwa-Amahila and Albert Kawana. Ndaitwah and Kukongelwa-Amadhila are seen as front runners in the Swapo Party presidential candidature for the country’s next president. Their possible candidatures got a boost last week when Founding President, Sam Nujoma said that the country is ready for a woman president. Approach for comment today, Kawana said that he does not comment about party issues in public and that that his ‘’personal views are insignificant as the majority party decision will carry the day’’, adding that he only gives his views in party structures.

The amendments are seen to stifle the growth of young and professional people in the party. The Geingob group also argues that Swapo has deployed its cadres in various fields and not only in political organs. Swapo cadres, the group says, are in foreign service, the military, government service and intelligence – occupations that limited them to serve on Swapo political organs.
Therefore, it would be unfair on these trusted cadres of the party who were deployed to equally important function now to be expected to have served on the Central Committee and the Politburo for ten years continuously. Also the terms ‘’consistently and persistently’’, the group says, were smuggled into the final wording of the rules.
They also argued that the amendments could not be regarded as ‘’done and dusted’’ if they were referred to the Swapo Think Tank, which has now recommended that they be reviewed.
The CC and the Politburo 10-year membership should just be one of the conditions and not the overriding one, since Swapo has deployed its educated cadres to other responsibilities, it was argued, the Observer is reliably informed.

The amendments, they say, are limiting Swapo, to compete with its best, especially when it comes to members of parliament, as most MPs are drawn from the Central Committee and the Politburo. These two organs are not the only platforms where Swapo leaders are found, there are for instance those who have been deployed to run party business and who have done outstanding work and professionals running government parastatals, displayed exceptional leadership abilities, the group is said to have motivated its position.

Approached for comment former Swapo Party secretary general, Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana said the amendments were not well thought through or informed. ‘’It limits the party from electing the best’’ saying that there is no CC or Politburo member who serves for more than five years continuously, as members of these organs’ tenure expire every five years after which new members are elected. She says the amendments are particularly discriminatory against professionals, who are members of the party. Ithana therefore wants to amendments to be reconsidered.

Former Prime Minister, Nahas Angula said the intention of the amendments was good and meant to protect the party against the ‘’infiltration of opportunities’’, who want to join the party for own benefit and not to work for the community.

However, he said, they may be ‘’discriminatory’’ adding that the constitution is a living document and should be relooked as the amendments ‘’can alienate the youth to bring them into the leadership of the party’’.

Julius Namoloh of the Swapo Party Youth League also argue that they be reconsidered as it gives ‘’someone outside of the inner circle of Swapo’’ no chance to run for leadership positions.

Political analyst, Henning Melber is of the opinion that the party should actually cancel all such restrictions ‘’because the practices would in any way be based on a longer term active track record of candidates within the party, through which they earn the credits and credibility to be considered for such leadership position.’’
Good potential presidents, he continuous does not ‘’fall from heaven or rise like Phoenix from the ashes, they normally are moulded inside the party through networks established and earlier delivery’’
Another analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah suggests the minimum requirement should be five years at the most.
10 years, he says, is extreme and they should establish a qualifier, where young people who have been in the Swapo Youth League and other wings will not be subjected to the same requirements.
“If they do not have a qualifier, and just saying Swapo then its’s a problem for the wings, but I’m assuming it’s inclusive of all,” said Kamwanyah.

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