Swapo Congress 2007

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What Does the Future Hold? By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The 2007 Swapo Congress is still so far away, and yet so near. One year in politics is obviously a long, long time but the ramifications of the 2007 Swapo congress are already with us. The jockeying for positions through overt or covert means is very much ongoing and there is no denying that the Swapo party is in the middle of a campaign, albeit a subtle one. Some of the campaign includes dirty tricks involving the writing of anonymous letters that are slanderous of some of the top brass in the party. Even pundits cannot resist talking about the congress though it is one year away. Analysts view the congress as a watershed event that would in all likelihood entrench the status quo within the party. In the run-up to the 2004 congress, the party witnessed serious in fighting and battle lines were clearly drawn between the party president Sam Nujoma, then head of state, and Hidipo Hamutenya. The latter was stripped of his Foreign Affairs Ministry portfolio shortly before the congress. This time around, analysts see a repeat of 2004. They believe Nujoma would win hands down as party president or succeed in pushing for a candidate of his choice if he chooses to step down. Those in the know predict that Nujoma might be asked to stay on given the precarious situation in the party, while Pohamba retains his vice president position. The position that might be heavily contested, according to pundits is that of secretary general where the incumbent stands no chance of being returned even if he were to contest. Sources believe the position might this time go to a woman. The secretary general position might also turn out to be a stepping stone for succession should President Pohamba not go for a second term. And all indications are that Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana might just be the candidate. According to one commentator, the results of the Swapo Party Congress would look like this: President – Dr Sam Nujoma; Vice President – Hifikepunye Pohamba; Secretary General – Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana. It is believed that even the apparent balance of power in the Politburo would change after the 2007 congress. The 2007 congress will be a winner takes it all. Analysts say after 2007 the party would see more stability, unlike after 2004. Currently, the politburo has many supporters of Hidipo Hamutenya although they have not effectively used their numbers to influence policy decisions in the highest organ of the party. Namibian political analyst Tjiurimo Alfredo Hengari, who is based in France, says the congress is important in the sense that it could draw the line between change and continuity. “It’s a congress that could affirm Sam Nujoma as president of the party, possibly for life and in that sense it could be a status quo congress and that debate would be closed.” Hengari said alternatively, it would swing the party presidency to Hifikepunye Pohamba, and that would not necessarily translate into continuity. Even though they (Nujoma and Pohamba) have so much in common politically, “Pohamba as we have noted over this past year in office seems to have a different vision”. The political analyst noted that Pohamba appears to prefer a return to normalcy within the party by healing the divisions of the extra-ordinary congress in 2004. “I think that he is honest enough to know that all is not well in the family.” Hengari stated that the congress would not be as tight as the 2004 extra-ordinary congress, as the Hamutenya camp has weakened. “It will be very difficult for Hamutenya to emerge as a strong player at the proceedings because his camp has been systematically weakened at all levels.” He cites the expulsion of Jesaya Nyamu, the death of MosÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚© Tjitendero and the erosion of the support base within the NUNW as some of the factors. “The camp has lost big political personalities such as Nyamu, late Tjitendero and others like former foreign affairs deputy minister Kaire Mbuende, who appears to be looking at other challenges in life.” Hengari said the Hamutenya camp simply does not have the same cohesion and most of the members have not recovered from the defeat at the 2004 congress. “They do not have that quality anymore and it appears that people will simply not risk any more, they are more realistic and simply everything is lost.” Phanuel Kaapama, a political science lecturer at the University of Namibia (Unam) echoed the same sentiments, noting that the congress will not be as close as the one of 2004. Kaapama said the Hamutenya factor will not be strong, as his camp does not have the capacity and momentum they had in 2004. “The defeat had an impact on their confidence and they have not psychologically recovered.” Kaapama added that the manner in which some heavyweight trade union leaders were dethroned unceremoniously must have sent some signals. “I do not know whether one should link the current political developments at the NUNW Congress to the 2004 congress or to the congress next year.” He however noted that things have not crystallized yet and the politburo meeting close to the congress next year will set the agenda. Kaapama added that Nujoma’s influence should not be underestimated. He cited the selection of Pohamba as the Swapo presidential candidate for the county in 2004 as a classical example. “Nobody predicted or speculated that Pohamba would become the president of the country but when the party president put it on the agenda it became a reality.” Kaapama added that given the tradition of Swapo and lessons from the past, candidates that might be aspiring for positions will not come out now but will wait until close to the congress. “We will not see the political manoeuvrings at national level yet but as the date draws closer we will observe more activities, even suspensions or firing.” Kaapama also did not rule out surprises and noted that the party can expect some women leaders in its top structures. “Given the developments in Zimbabwe and Liberia where women leaders attained top political positions, we may see the same happening in the ruling party.” Another political analyst, Graham Hopwood states that the entire focus is currently on the Swapo presidency. He noted that logically, one would have expected Nujoma to step down as party president and allow Pohamba to take the reins at the party as well. “I think if there were no power struggles within the party, this transition could have sailed through comfortably.” He added that another factor is that there are still some party members who want Nujoma to remain president of the party even for life. “If Pohamba does not take control of the party, his presidency can be viewed as a lame one.” He noted that if Pohamba becomes president of the party, the vice presidency will be up for grabs and current prime minister Nahas Angula can be slotted into that position if Pohamba does not want to continue beyond 2009 as president. Hopwood also believes that learning from the 2004 congress, the party will go for a single presidential candidate as the issue of three candidates proved to be very divisive. On the post of the secretary general of the party, Hopwood said Ngarikutuke Tjiriange will not likely retain the position and the party might look at younger MPs such as Poham-ba Shifeta to take over that position. He however remarked that it is still too early to speculate and a number of things can happen which could change the complexion of the congress. The congress is the Swapo Party’s supreme decision-making body, which sets the party’s policy agenda and reviews activities and development of the party. It also elects the Central Committee and the four top office bearers of the party. A congress is held once every five years and is composed of 83 Central Committee members, 10 delegates from each Regional Executive Committee, three delegates from each District Executive Committee, 15 delegates from the Elders Council, 20 delegates from the Women’s Council and 15 delegates from each affiliated organisation. Swapo has held three ordinary congresses since independence in 1991, 1997 and 2002 and two extraordinary congresses in 1998 and 2004. The two extra-ordinary congresses were held to amend the party’s constitution and to elect a presidential candidate. At the 2002 congress the only affiliated organisation was the NUNW.