By Kuvee Kangueehi
Swapo Party stalwart, Hidipo Hamutenya, finally resigned from the ruling party and as member of the National Assembly ending years of speculation about his future.
The former politburo and Central Committee member made the announcement yesterday at a press conference at a local hotel.
Hamutenya’s resignation was on the cards once his close ally and expelled Swapo Party politburo member, Jesaya Nyamu, registered a new party Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) last week Friday.
It also became apparent that Hamutenya was set to go when he publicly rebuked his party in an article published by Insight magazine. In the article, Hamutenya said the coming party congress was a sham. Many people saw this as a farewell speech.
Addressing a crowd of over 100, Hamutenya said he was announcing his departure with a heavy heart as he leaves behind a team of longtime friends. He said he felt that he could no longer be part of a team that had lost its vision and focus.
The former cabinet minister said the dominant features on Namibia’s landscape today are poverty, inequality, the sorry state of education, declining health services and unemployment.
“It is my sincere feeling that we, as an organisation and as a country, have lost a sense of purpose and direction which, for decades, have held us together under the most trying of circumstances.”
Hamutenya said the nation is crying out for delivery of promises made at independence and upon which they were elected.
Hamutenya’s political fortunes started to decline in 2004 after he declared his candidacy for the Swapo Party presidency. Swapo Party President, Sam Nujoma, did not support his nomination and on the eve of the extra-ordinary congress in 2004, he sacked him as Foreign Affairs Minister.
Hamutenya yesterday said he committed the biggest crime when he tried to become president in 2004 and that because political life is not always smooth, he has to accept this with grace and not malice.
The former Trade Minister noted that he believes that there is enough political space for him to play a mea-ningful role in Namibian politics.
He stressed that his resignation from Swapo was also necessitated by the fact that new debate and ideas are suppressed in the Swapo Party.
“It was time to move on when one realised that progress is not possible and there is an arrogance of power.”
He said many Namibian men and women are sick and tired and are looking for an alternative, as they cannot just sit and watch.
Although he used a platform created by RDP to make his announcement, Hamutenya cleverly said he had not joined the new party yet and will wait until the party’s public meeting next weekend to make his decision.
Asked whether Congress of Democrats (CoD) president, Ben Ulenga, who left Swapo in 1999 under similar circumstances is a visionary leader, Hamutenya said he doubts Ulenga’s timing but he never called Ulenga a reactionary.
Hamutenya also gave a brief history of himself. He said he joined Swapo at the age of 22 and was one of the first Namibians to go into exile.
He said in 1963, he worked for Swapo in Cairo, Egypt, under the late Emil Appolus. In 1964, he moved to the United States and worked with Hage Geingob and Theo Ben Gurirab.
In 1973, Hamutenya came to Zambia and was immediately appointed Swapo head of education. Three years later, he was assigned to be part of a team to set up and manage the United Nations Institute for Namibia (UNIN).
Hamutenya was elected Swapo member of the politburo and central committee in 1976 and played a leading role in the formulation of the Swapo Constitution and political programme – ideological documents that served as key rallying points for the struggle.
Hamutenya has also been a member of the Swapo Party negotiating team with the Western contact group of five negotiating Resolution 435, the blueprint for Namibia’s independence.
He was part of the team that drafted the Namibian Constitution and served as Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Minister of Trade and Industry and finally Minister of Foreign Affairs.
When he arrived for the press conference yesterday, Hamutenya was welcomed by Nyamu, former Chairman of the National Council, Kandy Nehova, former ambassador, Shapua Kaukungwa, former acting Secretary General of the NUNW, Peter Naholo, Festus Naholo and many others who supported him during the 2004 Swapo presidential campaign.