Exit Kapenda, Enter Muheua

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek Alpheus Muheua and Evilastus Kaaronda emerged victorious as the President and Secretary General of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) respectively in the early hours of Monday at the federation’s 4th Ordinary National Congress. Muheua and Kaaronda emerged victorious without even going to the polls at the hotly contested congress, which almost turned violent. Muheua was nominated for the presidency by seven of the nine affiliates of the NUNW and did not have a challenger after Connie Pandeni who was nominated by the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) withdrew from the race and the Namibia National Teachers Union (Nantu) which earlier opted to make its nomination from the floor failed to reach a consensus. Some Nantu delegates even walked out of the congress and decided not to take part in the process after their preferred candidate for presidency Risto Kapenda failed to be seconded by three affiliates. Kaaronda was also the sole candidate for the position of secretary general following his nomination by all nine affiliates. The much-anticipated congress started on a rather quiet note on Friday evening with dinner at the Safari Hotel, where the over 400 delegates had gathered. However, it moved into gear on Saturday morning and the former president of the NUNW Risto Kapenda set the tone at the official opening of the congress. The outgoing president in his typical militant style stirred the emotions of the workers with revolutionary songs calling for justice and fairness. The congress, which was officially opened by the Namibian Head of State Hifikepunye Pohamba accompanied by the founding president Sam Nujoma, was rather tense. Kapenda, who was chairing the NUNW congress by virtue of being the president of the NUNW, also introduced the issue of suspended former acting Secretary General Peter Naholo on the agenda. Although some delegates felt that Naholo was never elected by congress and had no mandate to address congress on his suspension, Kapenda managed to give Naholo a platform to give his side of the story despite Naholo being barred from attending the congress. Naholo stood up to address the congress but the delegates started shouting “no, no, no, no,” and before he could utter a word, the sound system was switched off. The congress almost turned violent when Kaaronda grabbed the microphone from Naholo, after which the delegates demanded that he be removed from the congress. The delegates also threatened Naholo – that they would call the police if he was not prepared to leave the fully packed hall. Tension rose to boiling point at the Windhoek College of Education Hall as some Nantu and MUN delegates supported Naholo and threatened to boycott the congress if the issue of Naholo was not addressed. The drama was not over despite Naholo together with a few supporters leaving the hall. Police officers were called in to guard the entrance. The congress soon passed a motion of no confidence in Kapenda and he was stripped of his chairmanship, which was taken over by Muheua. At that point, tension was very high and tight security was placed at the gates. Despite the boycott by a few delegates who decided to remain outside, the congress continued with its agenda such as the presentation and adoption of the NUNW Central Committee Reports. The congress also concluded its reports by various congress committees as well as the financial reports. The elections, which were slated to start on Sunday midday, only commenced on Sunday after 11pm. Muheua and Kaaronda won the election comfortably, while David Namalenga was voted as first vice president. Elias Manga was elected as the second vice president, while Pandeni who withdrew from the presidential race was elected as treasurer. Stella Louw was elected as the deputy treasurer and Erago Tandus as the deputy secretary general. The disunity between the Nantu and the MUN allowed the Namibia Public Workers Union (Napwu), Namibia Farmworkers Union, Namibia Financial Institutions Union (NAFINU), Namibia Food and Allied Workers Union (NAFAU), the Namibia Domestic Workers Union, Namibia Music and Arts Association and the Namibia Transport and Allied Workers Union (NATAU) to dominate and set the agenda for the congress. The build up to the congress was characterised by infightings, heavy lobbying, campaigns and heated debates. Nantu is set to have its congress this month at Katima Mulilo and it is believed that the group that supported Naholo would suffer another defeat at the hands of those who dominated the just ended NUNW congress. Political analysts speculate that the just ended congress will set the tone for the Swapo Party congress next year.

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