Windhoek-Oshikoto regional coordinator for Swapo, Armas Amukwiyu, says the strategy to align with veteran politicians of Swapo towards a leadership role during the recent congress, might have been the wrong move. Public expectations were high that Amukwiyu, 41, stood a better chance against his opponent Sophia Shaningwa, whom he rivalled for the position of secretary general, the third highest position in the ruling party.
Amukwiyu’s rise to stardom in politics stems from his grass-roots development in youth politics. He is a former national executive committee member of the National Youth Council (NYC) and the former chairperson of the Oshikoto Regional Youth Forum. He also served in the national leadership of several youth organisations. He has been the Oshikoto regional coordinator for Swapo since 2004.
However, the 6th Swapo elective congress spoke a different language and Amukwiyu lost – with 243 votes to Sophia Shaningwa’s 523 votes.
New Era met up with Amukwiyu and asked what his future political plans are and what lessons he learnt from last week’s congress. He said that in future, should he participate in such contestation, he would never associate himself with any grouping.
Amukwiyu campaigned under the now disbanded Team Swapo with six other party members, namely the former prime minister Nahas Angula, former minister Helmuth Angula, home affairs and immigration minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, youth and sports minister Jerry Ekandjo, Petrina Haingura and businesswoman Martha Namundjebo-Tilahun.
“I think from here and not only me and the rest of the party leaders, candidates who will contest for whatever position, especially at national level, must avoid campaigning under certain groups because this to me is factionalism and promotes levels of disunity and division within the party. During the campaign you saw comrades from the same party looking at each other with angry faces, being angry at one another as if they had done each other wrong, just because people were identifying with a different team,” he said.
He added that candidates should also avoid sending wrong messages during the campaigns and refrain from pointing out what fellow candidates failed to do.
When asked if he sees himself contesting over and above the position he competed for, Amukwiyu was quick to point out that he didn’t lose anything “as you only lose something you had”.
“I didn’t lose anything – that’s my take on this issue. I was rather vying to become the SG of our party and I knew very well this is democratic contestation and I was going into elections, and we were two candidates.”
“I was mentally and psychologically prepared that an election produces two sides – either you emerge as victor or could fail and not make it. And being from the same party as the SG is, I do not regret. In fact, I am proud of those who supported, rallied for and elected me from the beginning to the end of the process,” said Amukwiyu, adding that if his comrades nominate him at the next congress, he would avail himself for whatever position.
The just-ended congress also set a new tone of political maturity and sense of unity among party members who even though they competed against each other, vowed to work together following the election results.
Amukwiyu pledged his support for President Geingob – and said it is no longer about who belongs to what team, but about Swapo and contributing towards the party and strengthening its unity.
He said he would return to his structures to harmonise the party members as it is no secret that the past campaigns left the region divided.
“First thing is – we going to have a come-together party this Saturday, where I will invite all party structures in the region. I will appeal to them to accept each other and rally behind the winning leaders.”
He added that he will also draw up a five-year programme for the region and will get input from religious and traditional leaders, and regional and local councillors.
Political commentator Dr Hoze Riruako said this is the time for Amukwiyu to take stock of what he has done and decide how he wants to resuscitate and strive towards becoming what he wanted to be.
He indicated that Amukwiyu should work within the system and not against it.
“Work with the power that is – make sure you rekindle that good relationship you had with comrades in the party,” advised Riruako, adding that Amukwiyu has learnt his lesson and that in Swapo you don’t come via the back door.
“He is ambitious – you can see he wanted to come to the centre. He has the potential and he is an energetic and forceful guy. I think he is a hardworking type of person. He has all the caviar that will make him succeed if he works within the party,” stated Riruako, pointing that that Amukwiyu now stands a better chance of being picked and placed somewhere.
He said Amukwiyu’s wishing to partake in the next congress would be determined by how he asserts himself right now.
“Take Utoni Nujoma, for example, he was very low on the last congress list and in this congress he is at position 34.”