In the event that Namibia finds in newly elected Swapo vice-president, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the country’s first-ever female president come 2024, chances are that this may not translate into the introduction of feminist-friendly policies at the executive level.
This is the take of prominent political analyst and writer, Henning Melber at the back of public opinion that the possibility of a woman president may bring about an overhaul on matters of reproductive health, abortion and the realisation of LGDBTQI+ rights.
If successful in the 2024 polls, Nandi-Ndaitwah will take over a country where there is a gap between women’s and men’s wages, a fierce fight for the legalization of abortion and more pressure for the recognition of gay marriages.
“Nandi-Ndaitwah has shown in past issues that she has a conservative mind. She is not in favour of reproductive rights and not in favour of abortion. What is good about her, in the medium to long term, is that the election result showed that she has scored clearly and decisively better than her contenders.
“That might help her to anchor her new position within the party. But if Swapo regains trust and through that gets more votes again in the next elections, it will be due to Nandi-Ndaitwah as presidential candidate but also for the parliamentary election it will not only depend on her, it will more so depend on the performance of Swapo between now and November 2024 when the electorate is again going to the polls,” argued Melber.
“Then maybe the age factor might be a disadvantage. We then have an electorate that is remarkably lower, many of them born-frees who do not relate to the struggle history but they measure governance against performance today. Which was certainly the factor on why social media-based political parties scored during the last two elections,” said the analyst.
Melber also opined that Nandi-Ndaitwah’s rise however heralds a new era for the party as it braces for a watershed 2024 election.
Nandi-Ndaitwah trounced her competitors for the top job, namely tourism minister Pohamba Shifeta and prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa -Amadhila.
Amadhila proceeded to also fail to make it into the party’s central committee, dealing her a double blow despite a spirited and colourful campaign for the position of Swapo vice-president.
The African National Congress’ (ANC) Lindiwe Sisulu was also in the country last week along with a host of others from the revolutionary movement campaigning for a female VP.
“Even in the liberation struggle, we trained as women in Angola. We fought as women. We did everything. We trained militarily. We handled every gun that was there. We did it equally.There was no separation to say that you are a woman there are certain things you can’t do. However, the issue of women being in decision-making positions is always a struggle,”Sisulu said.
In the meantime, Melber opined that Nandi-Ndaitwah’s victory is emblematic of the trust delegates put on the ruling party’s principle of continuity, as she is cut from the cloth of Swapo’s old guard.
“With the election of meme Nandi-Ndaitwah, the Swapo party is about to enter a new era in the sense that for the first time, a woman is groomed to become the head of the state and leader of the party. But there is also a lot of continuity in Nandi-Ndaitwah’s election. Not only that but also age-wise. After all, she comes closest to the first generation of Swapo veterans, who will by 2024/25 be phased out of political leadership and government,” he noted.
“That means that the delegates put their trust into continuity, into those who have been involved with the party for decades. When it comes to her orientation, being a woman does not mean that there will be more feminist policies around the corner,”Melber said.