Swapo pot burns as electoral contest heats up

By Eliaser Ndeyanale

THIS weekend around 190 Swapo Party members will convene in Windhoek to deliberate on the list of 96 members who will stand as candidates of the Swapo Party in the National Assembly in the November election.

Those who win National Assembly seats would serve as legislators from 21 March 2020 to 20 March 2025.

The ruling party’s electoral college, also known as “the pot”, is where the list of candidates for parliament – and hence the fate of many political heavyweights and other contenders – will be decided. And it appears that many delegates already know who they are going to vote for and who will be eliminated at ballot box.

Right now there are only three leaders whose seats in parliament are not on the line. They are party vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa and her deputy Marco Hausiku.

The pot will include all 85 members of the Swapo central committee, all Swapo Members of Parliament, 15 delegates from each wing of Swapo and six delegates (including two candidates) from each of the 14 regions: three males and three females.

The meeting will elect 96 candidates to be added to the ten candidates that President Hage Geingob will appoint. He is expected to announce his ten preferred candidates after the internal election on Sunday. The 50/50 gender representation formula would be observed in this regard.

The electoral college is now set to start on Friday and is expected to be completed in the early hours of Sunday morning, but it’s not yet clear whether all regions will take part as some regions have not completed their regional conferences, while others have seen their regional conference results disqualified because of “irregularities and [an] unfair electoral system”.

Oshana is one of the regions that was unable convene its conference on Friday last week as it first had to discuss four petitions from its four districts.

“We are planning to have it on Thursday (today). Last Friday, it couldn’t take place because we had two problems. Procedurally, if a region is holding a regional conference and it has to do with elections the politburo has to appoint a committee to observe the election process. Now we didn’t get a response on time; that is why we had postponed it. We were thinking that they would respond on time so that we could go ahead.

“In the process, while we are waiting for the politburo to respond, we received petitions from four districts that are Okaku, Uuvudhiya, Oshakati and Uukwiyuushona.

“Now we have decided to address those petitions first before organising the conference. With the help of the [Swapo] secretary general’s office, we have started addressing the petitions on Sunday. We get reinforcement of other national leaders to assist us on that issue.”

He added that the regional leadership compiled a report on Tuesday about the issues raised in the petitions and the assessment. Nelongo said he hoped that the region would have its district conference on Thursday.

The coordinator further remarked that the district structures claimed in their petitions that the elections held at their districts were not fair.

“Everyone has their own understanding of how things were supposed to be done. Anyway, that is their right to complain. It’s also a provision of the Swapo Party election procedure that an aggrieved party member or candidate should petition the relevant structure so that their grievance could be addressed. But some of the things cited in the petitions were really not relevant or real issues, it’s only a matter that some comrades do not understand the party constitution or the party election process procedure or they might believe in something which is also not relevant and that’s why they’re saying elections were not fair and are disputing the results.”

On Tuesday, Hausiku wrote to Khomas regional coordinator Eliot Mbako telling him that the region may be excluded from participating in the electoral college because it apparently did not adhere to a circular from secretary general Shaningwa’s office, dated 16 August.

Other regions that might be excluded are Erongo, Otjozondjupa, //Karas and Omaheke. Contacted for comment, Hausiku said they were working hard to ensure that all the regions participate. “We are working around the clock to make sure everybody participates,” he said.

Swapo member and staunch critic Prof Henning Melber said, “Delegates should of course vote according to the qualifications of the candidates. This means, age is not necessarily a relevant criterion. One can be old and competent or old and incompetent. The same applies to the younger candidates. And the same applies to gender too.

“Competence should be the main reason for getting votes, not connections or claims based on a struggle history, and neither age. Unfortunately, voting patterns often have other criteria than competence, including ethnicity or factionalism (or a combination of both). In the past this resulted in a certain amount of dead wood and people who due to age and sickness were unable to perform.

“One should force them to retire gracefully rather than becoming an embarrassment for the party and themselves.”