All eyes on SG as succession heats up



With most of the bigwigs within the ruling Swapo party eyeing the vice presidency, political analysts argue the fight among underdogs could be narrowed to the secretary general (SG) and the deputy SG positions.
The party will hold its elective congress end of this year with growing speculation that the bigger names are leaving no stone unturned to clinch the second most powerful position in the party.
But amid all the vicious campaign, analysts believe the heightened targeting of the vice presidency within the Swapo party, five months before the elective conference, could open up avenues for young blood to rise within the ranks.
Institute for Public Policy and Research (IPPR) director, Graham Hopwood told The Villager that the current political situation where the Party manages the succession issue of its top four positions, could see both the old guard and the young members of the Party gunning for the SG position.
“Definitely, the old guards within the Party are focused on the top two positions and the history on Namibian politicians is that they do not retire easily, so other serious contenders for the SG position could also be the current deputy SG, Nangolo Mbumba who is viewed as the uniting force within the Party. There are also names including those of Elijah Ngurare being thrown around. With such a view, you can never be certain.
“In the previous conferences, there has been debate that the SG and the deputy should be full time employees of the Party and if this were enforced, it would definitely see members of the youth league who are above 40 years throwing in their names in the hat,” said Hopwood.
According to Hopwood, the Party’s problem has also been dealing with ageing members of the youth league who have gone past youthful stages as there is little chance for them to graduate into the mother body because those already occupying positions are not keen to relinquish their positions.
“There might also be a dilemma with regard to the current SG (Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana) failing to satisfy her ambitions for the top post. She might consider staying at the current position and that might also make it difficult for the Party to endorse youngsters.
"In actual fact, Swapo has done enough to contain the succession issue under wraps and my best guess is the top four positions that might eventually be given to approved candidates,” he added.
According to Hopwood, the most challenging issue for the Party is to have an agreeable election process and at the same time, keep credibility of an open election without sowing the seeds of division.
However, Hopwood argues the SG position remains one of the most powerful positions considering that whoever wins it, would also be responsible for the day-to-day running of the Party.
However, according to political analyst, Professor William Lindeke, Swapo might have to pick sole candidature for the top positions to avert the damaging consequences of an open election and to contain losers.
“There might also still be lingering memories of the last conference in 2004, which saw the departure of former Minister of Foreign Affairs (Hidipo Hamutenya). Although it is not easy to have exact names of candidates who would land the SG position, the Party has also been playing its cards close to its chest to avoid creating camps before the congress,” he said.
According to Lindeke, Jerry Ekandjo, whose name has also been mentioned among those those targeting the presidency, could also be interested in the SG position in a bid to keep his name and remain strategically positioned for the future in case he does not make it to the top two.
Polytechnic of Namibia political and social analyst, Dr Andrew Niikondo also maintains that the Party is most likely to use the SG position to accommodate candidates who would have missed out on the top two jobs.
They may also pull the SG card to thwart possible fractures and discontent from the losers.
“I would say, it would be very difficult for anyone from the youth league to land a top post like the SG’s because there’re still a lot of the old guards who are very much interested in keeping their names relevant,” he said adding that, “Swapo has also not had a history of elevating young people into top post, so very little may change before elections.