Windhoek-President Hage Geingob on Friday broke his long silence regarding next month’s elective Swapo congress by confirming that he would avail himself as candidate for the presidency of the Swapo Party.
Although some structures within the party – such as the elders and youth wings – have already officially endorsed Geingob as their preferred and sole candidate for the party’s presidency, Geingob himself had not prior to Friday confirmed whether he was available for the position.
Contrary to the sole candidacy chorus that is in vogue in some quarters, Geingob informed the party’s politburo that other candidates were most welcome to contest positions at congress.
“Those cadres that qualify to contest for elections have the right to do so, as per our constitution,” he said.
Addressing the Swapo politburo meeting in Windhoek on Friday, which was originally convened to – among other agenda points – nominate candidates for key positions at congress, Geingob announced his candidature for the party presidency and his slate of preferred candidates.
On his slate are Deputy Prime Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as candidate for Swapo vice-president, Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa as secretary-general of the Swapo Party and former deputy prime minister Marco Hausiku as deputy secretary-general.
Geingob said he had consulted widely – including with former country and Swapo presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba – before he compiled his slate.
“This is my preferred list and by announcing it I have exercised my right to choose,” Geingob said, as he confirmed his list, which was widely circulated on social media platforms prior to its official release.
It is not clear what would happen to current Swapo secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba after congress, although talk has been rife that he was being lined up for the country’s vice-presidency, if Swapo – as is widely expected – wins the 2019 general election.
The future role of Laura McLeod-Katjirua, the incumbent deputy secretary-general of Swapo, also remains largely unclear.
Although Geingob has announced his preferred candidates for the top-four positions in the party, formal nominations will only be made on Thursday when the politburo convenes again.
The party’s central committee will then meet on October 22, where further nomination talks are expected to take centre-stage. It will then be up to the congress delegates to reject or endorse the recommendations of the central committee.
There have been calls by some Swapo members for the ruling party to create two centres of power, by those advocating that – unlike in the past – the party president should not also be the country’s president.
Geingob took a different view on this, saying part of the reason Pohamba relinquished the party presidency in 2015 was to avoid creating two centres of power. The compilation of his slate of candidates was also part of an attempt to avoid creating two centres of power.
“However, this does not mean that people cannot nominate their preferred candidates or campaign,” Geingob further noted.
According to Swapo’s succession policy, whoever emerges as president of the party becomes the automatic candidate for the Namibian presidency in general elections. This means whoever emerges as party president from next month’s elective congress automatically becomes Swapo’s candidate in the 2019 national presidential election.
If the party president is not available to run for the national presidency, the vice-president of the party becomes the next candidate in line.
Geingob on Friday cautioned party members for the sake of the party to keep the congress campaign clean.
“In all democratic elections, it is common for factions to develop as respective candidates vie for support and ascendancy,” he noted. “Therefore, the mantra we should adopt is to play the ball and not the man.
“When you play the ball, once the game is complete, players accept the result, shake hands and move on. When you play the man, you leave wounds and the game descends into bitterness, since wounds don’t heal easily,” Geingob advised.