Late entrant to the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) presidential race, Libolly Haufiku, tells Toivo Ndjebela that he is not intent on taking the disgraced former official opposition back to its former status. Instead, he wants RDP to rule Namibia, with him as possibly the country’s president.
You announced on Wednesday your candidacy for the RDP presidency. What informed your decision?
Libolly Haufiku (LB): One has to read the times. I am from a different generation and I was in RDP from the start. I was responsible for kick-starting the administrative capacity of the party as the first director general of administration, but I’ve also held various portfolios in the party, including being secretary for international affairs. I decided to stand after being urged to do so by many senior founding members of the party who know what I’m capable of doing. They think I’m the right candidate to lead the party. I’ve also had people, some from the youth and women’s leagues, coming to my house to urge me to stand. It is no secret that I campaigned for Comrade Jeremiah Nambinga at the last party convention, but I have had talk with him about my intention to stand and he did not have a problem with it. That was before I knew he would stand also. Right now I have campaign teams in all 14 regions who are coordinating my campaigns ahead of elections on May 24.
Has it always been your ambition to one day lead the RDP as president?
LH: Not at all. I’ve always been a team player but I’ve nenver thought I’d be trusted to stand for the party’s presidency. Sometimes you have to listen when being urged to stand. I am a democrat.
What do you say to views that you are a political novice compared to others candidates – Kandy Nehova, Jeremiah Nambinga and Heikko Lucks?
LH: What does that even mean? I’ve always been in politics. I was arrested as a nine-year-old pioneer activist of Swapo in Walvis Bay. I was arrested by the likes of the notorious Nico Smit of DTA as a child because of my political activities. I left for exile in 1974, dropping out of school. When I arrived in Zambia, everyone knew me and my political activities back home. I was appointed as commander of the first ever youth platoon of Swapo, and deputised by Dr Ndapewa Hamunime. When we went to Ghana as students, I was appointed by Hidipo Hamutenya – then as Swapo secretary for education – to be the group leader. I was also the group leader for those who went to study with me in the UK, sent there by Swapo. When I enrolled with the University of Helsinki in Finland, I was again the leader of Swapo youth in the Nordic countries. And after independence, I set up two Swapo branches in Walvis Bay. So it’s not correct that I’m a novice.
You were not voted back into the party’s central committee in 2013. What makes you think you’d be voted as president?
LH: I was not voted in 2013 because I did not avail myself for any position, including as member of the central committee. I was nominated to stand as secretary general, but I declined. I was among a number of people who were vilified for urging HH (Hidipo Hamutenya) not to stand at the 2013 convention. There was just too much tension and I didn’t want to be part of it. Nevertheless, my commitment to the party has never diminished. I kept being active for party activities such as fundraising and so on. I think it is because of my commitment to the party that members have been urging me to stand.
You have always been considered a Hidipo Hamutenya loyalist, but Heikko Lucks claims he has his (HH’s) backing in this campaign. Do you feel betrayed?
LH: Absolutely not! My relationship with HH – at both personal and political level – dates way back. I’m one of the people who firmly stood behind him in 2004 for the Swapo extraordinary congress. I chatted to him before I decided to stand for the RDP presidency – and that was way before Heikko went there. I just did not go public with it. HH knows what I’m capable of doing. Come May 24, fortune will be on my side. And when I win, I’ll propose that the party makes HH its honorary president. I’m here to defend his legacy and you can only do that if you know the man like I do.
HH once said he is the only RDP politician able to take on President Hage Geingob in a national election. What does this say about the quality of leaders in your party?
LH: Well, everyone have their own views. But people can only shine once they are given responsibilities. We’ve had leaders like Sam Nujoma, Hifikepunye Pohamba, Hage Geingob and Hidipo Hamutenya who dominated the political scene for so long but that does not mean there are no other capable people in the country. At the end of Geingob’s tenure, there would no longer be liberation politics. And that’s when Namibian politics would start to be very interesting. The time for young people to enter politics is now.
How do you intent to revive youth politics in RDP, seeing that the party has recently disbanded you youth league?
LH: It was a wrong step by the party leadership. There was an agreement that the two warring youth factions should work together and resolve their differences. The one group was urged to drop its court case during the last electoral college. But people who were tasked to ensure that this happens did not do their job. Youth and women leagues are very important structures to the party. I’d propose, once I become party president, that the two structure should get reserved seats on the National Executive Committee of the party so that they are not in the dark about key decisions taken by the party leadership.
RDP is on a downward spiral, such that you lost your official opposition status to DTA. To what do you attribute the decline?
LH: There are internal and external things that affected our performance in last year’s election. Internally, we left the elective convention very divided. There are factions that emerged out of that convention, so we went into national elections very divided. Some people gave their all, some didn’t. another issue was the scarcity of resources. And then there was the issue of challenging the EVMs in court at a critical time just before elections. This decision was not taken by any authoritative structure of the party, it was one faction that took it to court. This put off many voters who felt that RDP is just a party of cry-babies.
Were you among those who felt in recent weeks that Hidipo Hamutenya must step down and give a chance to somebody else to lead the party?
LH: No, I wasn’t. I heard there was heated arguments at the last central committee meeting, where a group of people called for HH to step down. I am not a member of the central committee, so I’m just hearing things. They used harsh language which was uncalled for. HH wanted to leave voluntarily but the tension affected his original decision.
What strategies do you have to revive the party once elected president?
LH: I’m going to be a hands-on president. I need to know what’s happening in the structures of the party across the country. I’d go to regions, evaluate things and engage people. We need to mould people, especially those who are in leadership positions for the first time. We need to help them gain confidence. There would be regular leadership workshops. Swapo is putting up a party school for the same reason. People need to be trained on issues of ethics and good standing in both the party and society. Our party councillors are not even contributing to party coffers as is required. Our structures need to be functioning again. I have the passion and intellectual capacity to make that happen.
Once elected president, will your immediate focus be on dislodging DTA as official opposition or will you gun for ruling party status?
LH: We are in this game to win power. I’m going for the national presidency. I’m not interested in fighting fellow alternative parties. DTA is not in charge of national affairs, so I’m not interested in them.
Finally, what are your impressions of the new government that was sworn in on March 21?
LH: I am put off by the duplication of deputy ministers. Government has always been too big and we had hoped President Geingob would downsize it. This is a job scheme for comrades. If I’m writing a letter to a ministry with two deputy ministers, how do I provide clarity on which deputy minister it is addressed to when some ministries have three deputy ministers? This is going to cost the taxpayer dearly.