The only way when one is already up is higher and this is the scenario the incumbent Swapo vice president, Dr Hage Geingob is likely to face when and if the December elective congress demotes him.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba was the party vice president in 2004 when he was elected Swapo’s presidential candidate for the 2005 elections.
Since Geingob has held all the top posts in government except the presidency, will he stay on if, like Hidipo Hamutenya, the elective congress fails to anoint him as the vice president and line him up for the top job in the country or he will skip the country again as he did in 2002 when he was demoted from the premiership to a minister?
Hidipo Hamutenya, the leader of the opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress was the leading candidate ahead of the 2004 presidential candidate elective extra-ordinary congress only to be dealt a heavy political blow in the outcome.
Will Geingob be humble enough to settle in a lesser post comfortably seeing that he has served as the country’s premier for two terms and declined the post of Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing?
Ironically, when Geingob declined the ministerial post in August 2002, he had just been placed ninth with 368 votes in the central committee but a month later, he garnered 33 votes out of the 83 member central committee where the lowest score should be 35. He felt betrayed by Founding Father, Sam Nujoma.
So he skipped the country for the United States and returned in 2004 after the party had placed him 28th out of 60. He settled as the party’s National Assembly chief whip before his return to parliament that same year.
But he had to wait for three years before the party could bring him back into the Politburo. He was, ironically once again, elected the sole candidate to the party’s vice presidency which in normal circumstances means an automatic successor to Pohamba.
Unlike in the past, Geingob accepted his current post as Minister of Trade and Industry. This is understandable because as party vice president, he could succeed Pohamba and has to learn presidential ropes. This, assuming the party VP, after all, is what happened to Pohamba in 2004.
It’s not clear though that Geingob will have it easy after the party’s secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana has not made it a secret that she would love to succeed Pohamba.
Although Iivula-Ithana is most probably the only one who has made her ambitions known, other names keep on popping up every time the succession debate heats up.
Nangolo Mbumba, the deputy secretary general and the party’s secretary for Information and Publicity, Jerry Ekandjo’s names do the rounds too.
Ekandjo was heavily tipped to be the party’s vice president ahead of Geingob during the 2007 elective congress after he garnered the highest votes in the Central Committee.
Geingob is sure to enter the Congress as the first non-Oshiwambo president-in waiting, while secretary general, Iivula-Ithana will be the first female Namibian president-in waiting.
Since Geingob has already held the top post as the country’s premier and the party’s deputy presidency, he has no other way to go but up and the elective congress will decide this.
The biggest question is whether Geingob will accept a different outcome and stay on in the party or he will skip the country again? A worse scenario would be playing the Hidipo Hamutenya stunt and leave Swapo.
The recent tribal utterances by Kazenambo Kazenambo, the same person who is on record for a call to have a non-Oshiwambo president before, won’t do Geingob much good because this has likely offended the Oshiwambo speaking party members who may never have thought of him as anything else but a Namibian.
Although it’s highly unlikely that Pohamba will act on Kazenambo for his utterances, Sam Nujoma set a precedent in 2004 when he sacked Hamutenya as Foreign Minister on allegations of dividing the party.
Iivula-Ithana’s bid could be boosted by the Swapo Party Women Council’s (SPWC) recent statement to support any female candidate who avails herself for vice presidency at the November elective congress.
The ruling party finds itself in a similar position as the United States four years ago when Barack Obama, as the first black president, and Hilary Clinton, as the first female president, both vied for the country’s top job.
Nujoma is seemingly behind Geingob, having thrown a birthday bash for him last year. But the real reason for Nujoma’s move would be to allow Geingob a second chance as pay-back move for dumping and stripping him of the premiership in 2002.
Geingob’s chances could therefore be compromised if the current Minister of Presidential Affairs Dr Albert Kawana and deputy premier, Marco Hausiku spring a surprise.
Jerry Ekandjo and PM Nahas Angula remain underdogs, for a compromised candidate too.
But Angula’s humility can make him a dark shadow. The press-candidate has publicly dropped out of the 2014 race but it leaves questions on whether Angula will stay at home in retirement from 2014 and survive on pension alone.
The fact that Pohamba has placed a moratorium on any discussion on a potential party presidential candidate and campaigning before the congress has only driven the debate underground, creating more suspicion and distrust.
Whatever the outcome of the elective congress, Swapo is faced with a daunting task that calls for maturity and tolerance from those eyeing the presidency as well as their supporters.
The sentiments of a non-Oshiwambo president should not be taken lightly especially when names of compromise candidates have been bandied around.
Beside Geingob and Iivula-Ithana, the following are the 2012 Congress presidential underdogs:
1. Prime Minister Nahas Angula
2. DP Minister Marco Haufiku
3. Minister Albert Kawana
4. Minister Nangolo Mbumba
5. Minister Jerry Ekandjo