Knives Out in CoD Fight for Presidency

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By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The political battle for the Congress of Democrats (CoD)’s presidency has intensified between the incumbent Ben Ulenga and Nora Schimming-Chase his vice-president ahead of the Extra-Ordinary Congress, less than 10 days away. Already, indications are that all is not well between factions associated with the two leaders. When the party announced two months ago that it would hold an extra-ordinary congress following a leadership crisis which has left the second largest political party in disarray, a number of party leaders including Kahakihe Tjozongoro and Linus Muchila were believed to be vying for the presidency of the party, but as the congress draws closer, it appears the battle will be a two-horse race. A senior party member claims that combat has intensified and there is no margin for political rookies and thus the presidency will be contested between the incumbent Ben Ulenga and his vice Nora Schimming-Chase as it was in 2004. The only difference is that there will be no compromise this time around and the winner will make sure that he or she will have total control of the party. The insider claims that Ulenga is trying to avoid a repeat of the 2004 Congress, where he compromised and allowed strong Schimming-Chase supporters into the top structures of the party. “Ulenga wants to avoid a situation where people are trying to catch him at every corner.” The source claimed that the rivalry between the Ulenga group, led by the National Chairperson Tsudao Gurirab and Rosa Namises, and that of Schimming-Chase which is spearheaded by the Secretary General Kalla Gertze has led to a communication breakdown and the two only communicate through nasty letters. New Era is in possession of two letters, one written by Schimming-Chase to Gurirab and the reply to it. In the letter dated 23 April, 2007, Schimming-Chase takes a swipe at Gurirab accusing him of making “cynical comments of the press conference the party held two weeks ago”. Schimming-Chase in the letter charges that the press conference was not faceless and was attended by party leaders unlike the “clandestine meeting attended by him and Rosa Namises at Tobias Hainyeko’s Kindergarten, CoD Katutura office and Tsumeb amongst others”. The vice-president claims Gurirab and Namises are giving party members conflicting information regarding the congress. In turn, Gurirab in a letter dated 24 April, 2007 states that he can confirm that he was at a meeting requested by party members from Okahandja Park and Soweto with Namises. The members sought information from Namises regarding the upcoming congress. Gurirab says Namises discussed the meeting with the SG as she needed to use the Katutura office but was however sent away in a bizarre and incongruous merry-go-round by Ellen Dienda and Gertze when she needed the keys. “This resulted in her having to break the lock to gain access to the premises and when I joined the meeting, briefly, I found the group including mothers with babies, huddled on the stoep outside.” He notes in the letter that the only blot really was that CoD members could not gain access to the office for the meeting. Gurirab in the letter denies attending secret meetings and says he does not know where Hainyeko Kindergarten is. “No, I have not been to Tsumeb in years and the only thing I know about meetings in Tsumeb is colleagues indulging, with abandon, in character assassination and litigious stuff re. yours truly.” The source revealed that it is difficult to predict the outcome of the congress because the party is in a state of disarray and there are no proper structures in the regions. “Every candidate is trying to get their supporters to the congress and that is fuelling the race more.” The source says currently Ulenga has the backing of the four northern central regions as well as the Erongo Region. Ulenga is also said to be enjoying support in the southern Kunene Region especially in Khorixas, Outjo and Kamanjab where Namises has support. Other regions where the incumbent has some degree of support include parts of the Caprivi and Omaheke regions where former treasurer Kaveri Kavari has influence. Ulenga’s chances of retaining the position were also boosted by the election of Nelao Kondombolo as the new secretary of the Women Democrats. Kondombolo who is a strong ally of Ulenga beat Innocentia Mokomele to the seat last weekend at the Women Democrats Congress in Windhoek. The source says the victory has raised confidence in the Ulenga camp. Given the fact that the Young Democrats are in a mess, Kondombolo’s victory was significant, as Ulenga has at least secured one of the party organs. The Young Democrats suspended their secretary two months ago. The acting secretary reportedly went missing after a failed workshop at Outjo. Schimming-Chase has huge support in the Khomas Region. The region is expected to have the highest number of delegates to congress and is her strongest weapon for presidency after her failed bid in 2004. Meanwhile, former Secretary General Ignatius Shixwameni appears to be benefiting from the battle between the two camps. He is the third force in the race. The insider claims that Shixwameni is not out of the blocks yet with his campaign and time is ticking by. He is also said to be the preferred vice-president for both Ulenga and Schimming-Chase because of his willingness to compromise. The insider claims that Shixwameni has presidential ambitions and has laid down the ground. He fears making this public because of the infighting but party members such as Moses Katjiuongua and Dienda have been campaigning for him. Katjiuongua, who motivated Shixwameni at the 2004 congress is said to have contacted delegates in Omaheke to support Shixwameni. The former SG who has been on the back seat since 2004 is still popular in the Kavango Region and some party members believe it is time for him to take over so that the party can recruit more members in the north-eastern part of the country. The only factor that counts against Shixwameni is that Ulenga supporters do not want Shixwameni to contest for presidency now as this would cause tension between him and Ulenga. They have secretly assured him of the vice-presidency if he backs Ulenga. “Shixwameni will be the perfect leader to take over from Ulenga after he finishes his next term.” The source says the rest of the top four positions will be determined by the outcome of the presidency. The Ulenga camp will go for Shixwameni for vice-president, Namises for SG. The Schimming-Chase presidency will prefer Shixwameni as vice-president, Gertze as SG and Dienda as treasurer. The Shixwameni presidency would prefer Linus Muchila as vice-president and Steve Rukoro as SG. Meanwhile, New Era was also reliably informed that the Congress Organizing Committee was expected to meet the National Working Committee (NWC) last night to seek postponement of the congress because preparations are not adequate for the holding of the congress next week. The congress is expected to take place at Keetmanshoop.