By: Justicia Shipena
Former cabinet minister Helmut Angula says Swapo veteran and politician Jerry Ekandjo’s right to contest for the vice president position was not supposed to be questioned.
This follows after, on 20 September 2022, Ekandjo’s lawyers, Metcalfe Beukes Attorneys and Swapo lawyers Murorua Kurtz Kasper Inc agreed for the matter to be referred to the party’s central committee.
Angula, in an interview with The Villager on Wednesday, said Ekandjo has the right to participate because he was the next in line after defence minister Frans Kapofi pulled out.
Last week, Kapofi, minutes before the Swapo party’s campaign launch, quit the race due to what he says ‘personal’ reasons.
“As the tradition has it, he is not even supposed to be questioned regarding his right to participate because someone fell out, and he is the next in line,” said Angula.
He added that historically it had been the practice that the next person automatically qualifies.
“Today, we do have lists of parliamentarians; for example, if one parliamentarian leaves parliament, the person on the list who scored the next highest is just called to parliament. The person automatically qualifies. This is the same with the central committee; when somebody falls out in the central committee, you already have an existing list of the score point, so the next person on the score list is just stepping in automatically,” he narrates.
Angula stated that he does not know nor understand the party is questioning Ekandjo’s right to be the next contesting VP candidate.
“Kapofi withdrew, and the next person in line in terms of the scores is Jerry, that is not supposed to be questioned. He rightly supposes just to step in already.”
Speaking on the next step, ahead of the decision by the party’s committee, Angula said Ekandjo’s fate now depends on the wings of the central committee as they will now vote on whether he (Ekandjo) should participate or not. However, he argued that should not be the case.
“Now, of course, his fate depends on the voting. And you don’t know who is campaigning and how many are campaigning for his participation. If it happens that those campaigning for him not to participate are the majority, then he will be excluded because the majority will vote,” said Angula.
He stressed that it is wrong for Ekandjo’s fate to be in the hands of the committee and that it is against the party’s constitution, adding that it may have future implications.
“What will happen next now when it’s the list of parliamentarians or list of the central committee, and they have scored what they have scored, and the next person was supposed to be stepping in, what will happen next is that instead of the person being called to the position it will be put to the central committee to decide whether it should be him or whether he would be jumped,” he said.
Angula lamented that people (members) must stop playing dirty games while stressing that when somebody has the right, the person has that right.
“If the person does not have the right to do “ABC”, he has no right, but the person with those rights should not be denied that right. It should be a democratic vote that should be bouncing him out of the vice presidency, not these schemes of preventing people from participating.”
Meanwhile, Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR)’s executive director Graham Hopwood says there might be a comprise because of Kapofi’s withdrawal and with four candidates allowed for each post.
“There is a space, and he was the next in line regarding votes. It is possible that they can solve it like that,” he said.
Hopwood said Ekandjo is trying to fight this on a principle of the so-called Helmut amendments in the Swapo constitution.
The so-called ‘Helmut Amendments’ passed in 2018 at the Swapo congress require those seeking top four positions within the party to have “persistently and consistently” been members of the central committee, politburo for 10 years, and a party member for 20 consecutive years.
He added that the veteran might want to continue to prove a point that Swapo can’t simply ignore its constitution.
“I think there is a different decision to be made there. The committee might tell him that we will listen to you, but we would like you to drop your legal facts if there is a compromise,” he said.
He emphasised that it is not common for senior members of the party like Ekandjo to drag the party to court.
“So, it will be pretty unusual, and I think the party will try to do what it can to avoid a court case as it will make the party look divided. They have that problem, and they look like they are breaking their own rules, which needs to be explained. Why would they avoid the rules of law in terms of their constitution.”
Hopwood said the Swapo party has to be clear going forward as there are only two months away from congress, stating that they don’t want to go into the election congress with the same atmosphere they had in 2017.
“With a lot of divisions in the party and personality disputes.”
The congress, which will take place in November this year, will elect the new leadership of the party and eventually the candidate running for the presidency in the upcoming 2024 elections.
“The choice is then to stay with three horse race for the vice president position, or do they include Jerry Ekandjo, who was the next in line when Frans Kapofi pulled out, that would seem to be the most practical, but then it does not answer how was the Swapo constitution applied,” said Hopwood.
“At the moment, they look like those things will continue ahead of this congress because they don’t appear to be managing it very well, but maybe the central committee can find a solution.”
He finds that Ekandjo is a weak candidate because of his track record and age.
“I think he is trying to prove a point here. There is no reason why, if he had lost twice before, he would have picked up new and different support to make him a contender. I still think it terms of the results, and it is still a two-horse race between the two female candidates, Netumbo and Saara.”