Delay prolongs anxious wait at congress

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Staff Reporter

Windhoek-Voting at the Swapo elective congress yesterday started just before 17h00, when the party had initially planned to announce the results at that very hour during the closing ceremony.

Congress started on Thursday last week, with voting to decide the party’s top-four leaders topping the agenda. Over 80 members of the central committee were also to be elected last night. Those presiding over elections told journalists that voting and counting of votes would take not less than three hours. If the results necessitated a second round of voting – often the case when no presidential candidate has scored more than 50 percent of the votes – completion of the process would take even longer.

Delegates and other officials in attendance only got their lunch break at around 14h30 yesterday, after which voting was to kick off. Initially, voting was slated to start yesterday at twelve noon.
New Era reporters on site were informed that voting was delayed because of lengthy discussions of congress resolutions.

“Substantive documents were under discussion,” New Era journalist Selma Ikela said from Safari Hotel where the congress took place.

As of 16h30, many people had not yet returned to the congress venue. People were seen conversing in small groups, our reporters on site said, in what looked like continuous lobbying of candidates to vote for particular candidates.

There was talk late yesterday that upon returning from lunch, organisers would allocate time to ‘teaching’ delegates how to vote before the actual voting would kick off.

Lawyer Sisa Namandje, who is presiding over the voting process, said during an interview with state broadcaster NBC that voting preparations were all in place and he and his team were only waiting for instructions to kick-start the procedure.

Several media statements were issued over the weekend by official rapporteurs of the congress, while both teams of contenders – Team Harambee for which President Hage Geingob is the candidate for the party’s presidency, and Team Swapo which has Nahas Angula and Jerry Ekandjo as presidential candidates – circulated statements discrediting the alleged antics of each other.

New Era has it on good authority that caucus meetings were held with various delegates at different venues in the city, as the battle for the soul of the former liberation movement raged on. Evidently, a lot is at stake.
Some results could necessitate a cabinet reshuffle within coming days, especially if Urban and Rural Development Minister Sophia Shaningwa wins the full-time secretary general’s position, which would require her to leave her ministerial job.

This means Geingob, who remains the country’s president irrespective of congress outcome, would appoint a new minister to replace Shaningwa if – in this unpredictable contest – she pulls off victory against Oshikoto regional coordinator for Swapo, Armas Amukwiyu.

Over the weekend, both former presidents Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba expressed concern at the way the two camps have been campaigning – especially where impolite language and accusations were exchanged.

As elections were to be held yesterday. The party – in a statement issued on Saturday evening – said that congress approved the report of the central committee and the party’s audited financial statement.

“Other matters discussed arising out of the report of the central committee include land reform, teenage pregnancy, food production, mining and energy, housing, education and health, among others,” the statement reads in part.

“The congress further noted that the implementation rate of congress resolutions stood at 84 percent. The congress also adopted the report of the Second National Policy Conference, which took place in October/November 2016. The Second National Policy Conference proposed various policy initiatives.”

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