Venaani – 15 years not out

The second-in-command in the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Jennifer van der Heever, has dismissed widespread perceptions that anyone who dares to challenge McHenry Venaani for his position will face the wrath of his might.

Venaani, at least for now, is the only candidate running to seek re-election to extend his rule to 15 years at the helm of the official opposition at an elective congress scheduled for 8 to 10 August in Katima Mulilo.

A decorated lawmaker, Vipuakuje Muharukua, who dared to oppose Venaani’s ambition, recently threw in the towel and abruptly resigned from the PDM, citing ‘trivial internal’ issues without disclosing the context.

Venaani’s deputy, Van der Heever, blatantly refused to join the bandwagon, saying they feel the incumbent is doing a stellar job and deserves a new term.

“The PDM has grown so much that we are very confident; we are recruiting [new members] daily, and people are joining us because of the stability and the work we did. You know our president is a hard worker and one of the consistent leaders, and that is our vision to take Namibia forward.

“We want to change, and we want to change. Yes, I will contest to retain my position, God permits, because I recently saw the potential in PDM,” the parliamentarian told Confidente on the sidelines of a Star Rally in Opuwo on Sunday.

In addition, Elma Dienda, another veteran of the PDM, also refused to be drawn into the race against Venaani without disclosing any reasons when quizzed.

Van der Heever denies that fear exists that anyone who dares challenge Venaani will face political obscurity, as seen with Muharukua.

“There is no fear, definitely not but when you are having trust in a leader you will give him that opportunity to take you further. So, at this point in time, we committed ourselves to give the position back to our current president.

“I will not say [the position] is un-contested but up to now revealed or divulged that they will or want to contest because we are having trust in your leader. Our constitution makes provision that he [Venaani] can stand for another term and a last term so if our Congress decides otherwise then we will abide by that [decision].

“I think it is also on record that he [Venaani] said that he will give the position to anyone who attains 40 percent, he promised, nationwide, that he will give the position to that person. Myself, I am not going [to contest].

“I served PDM as national chairperson and as vice-president, if it comes to that there is another competitor for my position and they are capable and I see potential in them, I can even stand back for that member,” she added.

The fear of running against Venaani, she claims, is a perception created by rogue members who lack faith in their political foes.

‘If anyone says they want to contest against Venaani nobody will stand in their way. We are democrats, and rightly so. So, anybody can in fact contest for any position. Even for all top six positions they are up for grabs,’ she opined.

The PDM also denies that Muharukua’s decision to pledge his allegiance to Venaani’s competitor, Rally for Democracy (RDP) president Mike Kavekotora as successor to the late OvaHerero paramount chief Vekuii Rukoro, remains his biggest crime, which, subsequently led to his resignation.

Van der Heever revealed that she, in fact, by virtue of her seniority, fired Muharukua as a deputy chief whip due to non-performance.

“There is no animosity or hatred at all [against Muharukua]. Everybody has a choice in life and it was his choice. Nobody pushed him to resign from the party. There will be no hatred. In our first term [in parliament], there were only five of us, and Muharukua was our brain and our child.

“I do not think there is any member of our party who hates him for what he did. It was his decision; we did not know; he did not divulge the reasons for his resignation except for what he said in the newspapers, so we accepted it because it was his right.

“We do not know the reasons for his resignation; he shocked us because he was still vigorously campaigning to be president of the party, and he was the first one to put a poster on social media that he was running, and nobody attacked him for that.

“There were members, especially from the youth, who supported him. So, I think he decided that he had enough of trivial politics, I do not know where it came from, and PDM has no trivial politics. We as a Party received the resignation on social media,” she emphasized.

In May 2022, van der Heever was absent from parliament for two years, prompting calls from members within PDM for her resignation and replacement. At the time, one of the disgruntled members who spewed the beans to Confidente on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal disclosed that the PDM VP had been ill for nearly two years, and a replacement was feasible if they wanted to ‘shake off’ any formidable forces emerging in the opposition bench.

The PDM VP rubbished the plea, saying she remained loyal despite being ill.

“Why not? Why can I not contest? Yes, when parliament opened at the beginning of the term, I felt sick, and I was in hospital for quite some time, but I was not out of the party. On the days I felt better, I still gave my opinion and was active.

“I am very dedicated to this party; remember, I came to this party as a child, and I do not feel I cannot compete because I was sick. If there is anyone who wants the position, nobody will stand in that person’s way, and we as leaders, especially the president and I, like to groom leaders,” she retaliated.