News and Information

Major shift in Swapo leadership
October 4, 2004

SWAPO will never be the same again, a member proclaimed after the list of National Assembly candidates was released at the party's electoral convention yesterday morning.

A major shift occurred after the core of the Swapo old guard performed poorly in the party's electoral convention, which could mean they might not make it back to parliament unless the ruling party substantially improves its representation in the coming elections.

When the results were announced, President Sam Nujoma appeared to have rejuvenated himself through the youth wing of the party and newcomers who were considered novices in national politics as recently as 10 years ago.

The result also seemed to send the message that Nujoma will retain his grip on the party and Government despite the fact that he is set to retire from Government in March.

Swapo delegates on Saturday voted for 60 candidates.

These will be added to the 10 that Nujoma has appointed, and Secretary General Ngarikutuke Tjiriange as well as his Deputy, John Pandeni, who are automatic selections.

Depending on how the ranking is done, each of the 60 elected candidates will be pushed down 12 places because of the top 12.

In the 1999 elections, which constituted the present parliament, Swapo obtained 55 seats.

With certain Cabinet ministers and top Government officials now ranked below 40 on the party list, drastic changes in the make-up of Swapo lawmakers are on the cards.

Prisons Minister Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, who turned 80 this year, will retire and did not stand for the elections.

Ya Toivo said he "has done enough" and was leaving it to the young people to run the country.

But chances of a return to parliament are slim for National Assembly Speaker Mose Tjitendero, Deputy Prime Minister Hendrik Witbooi, former Foreign Affairs Minister Hidipo Hamutenya, ministers Phillemon Malima, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, Helmut Angula, Jesaya Nyamu, deputy ministers Jeremiah Nambinga, Clara Bohitile, Hadino Hishongwa and axed Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Kaire Mbuende.

Former Prime Minister, Hage Geingob, came in at a respectable 28th place (40th if the first 12 are brought in) and could make a comeback to national politics following a self-imposed exile after Nujoma sacked him as premier in 2002 in yet unexplained circumstances.

Geingob now lives in Washington, D.C., where he works for a governmental agency called Global Coalition for Africa.

"If people have spoken like that, I'll have to come back and contribute.

But it is not over yet, it depends on how many seats we get," said Geingob.

Swapo Youth League members grabbed at least five places in the top 50, including the wing's leader, Paulus Kapia, who was hand-picked by Nujoma.

"Of course, we had a strategy and we lobbied procedurally," Kapia boasted after the elections.

Ahead of the election, delegates, especially the previous top guns in Swapo, appeared tense and nervous, though on Friday a false sense of camaraderie was portrayed.

They sang and danced.

Yet most of them made it clear to the elections director, Sacky Akweenda, that they could no longer wait for the results.

They listened attentively as the names were being read out.

At the end, Nujoma loyalists were the only ones left ululating, hugging and embracing as those associated with Hamutenya beat a quiet retreat.

"Swapo has changed forever," said a Swapo member.

"Anyone who was hoping that Pohamba would rescue people and offer reconciliation should think again, as Nujoma will be in charge much longer than expected, and he has a majority of his supporters in those strategic places," another added.

Nujoma himself was upbeat at the end of the elections.

Announcing that delegates should make sure the election results were taken to their regions, he wished them "bon voyage" with his trademark smile.


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