NEWLY appointed Swapo election chief, lawyer Joshua Kaumbi, has promised a free, transparent and fair election process at the congress which will decide the ruling party’s top leadership for the next five years.
Kaumbi replaced lawyer Sisa Namandje who counted votes at various Swapo congresses for over 13 years – a role that allowed him to set the rules and count ballots for would-be party (and thus state) presidents.
“The delegates, voters, and the rank and file should be assured that we will ensure that this election is not only conducted in an impartial, free, fair, transparent and credible manner in line with the party constitution, rules and procedures, but that the process thereof also be seen to speak to those elements,” he said.
Kaumbi, who was confirmed as the Swapo electoral chief this week, said he is confident that he will deliver an election that will dispel any material doubt.
He said he will be supported by a team of three assistants (two of whom are senior lawyers and a chartered accountant) and a team of close to 20 supporting staff.
“I am alive to the expectations,” he said.
Kaumbi has been a supporter of president Hage Geingob’s presidency, which was seen by some as sucking up to power.
“All things being equal president Geingob, notwithstanding the persistence of the unexpected headwinds and independent intervening variables, has proven to be a better shepherd, in addition to being a continuous inspiration to the nation. He never failed to show up for work, despite losing close associates, comrades, friends, fellow citizens and relatives,” he wrote in an opinion article published two years ago.
He has in the past advocated Geingob’s second term.
Kaumbi also penned an opinion article in September this year about the congress titled: ‘Play the Ball for the Sake of 2024’.
Kaumbi told The Namibian that he is aware of the expectations as electoral chief. “I’m determined to see it through to the best of my ability knowing fully that it is not a light assignment.
THE LAST LAP
Most camps were putting the final shift in their bid to secure voters.
Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta’s campaign manager, Peya Mushelenga, also said he is confident that Shifeta will prevail at the congress.
“Our appeal to our supporters is that let us read documents to make meaningful contributions to discussions on issues affecting our nation. Let us remain focused and disciplined and always remember that Swapo is larger than its individual members,” Mushelenga said.
Deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah’s campaign manager, Kaire Mbuende, told The Namibian yesterday that she is confident that their campaign is going to win at the congress and it has the support of more than 51% of the delegates to the congress.
He said their campaign message, which he said was about the future of the country, transforming the economy and corruption-free leadership, has been heard by the delegates.
“We are quite confident that we have the numbers to deliver the vice president. [At] our last count, which was not complete, we were over 51%”.
“This was more than a week ago. We did not count everyone because we have the regions, wings, central committee but without central committee members, ” Mbuende said.
He said it will be a watershed congress especially as the party is coming from a national election where it was wounded by the opposition parties when it lost 14 seats in the National Assembly and several local authorities.
Prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s campaign team did not respond to them yesterday.
But her message to delegates is contained in a newsletter circulated via WhatsApp.
“I am at your disposal to serve with diligence and commitment in the mandate of the vice president of Swapo. Please entrust me with the opportunity to fulfil our collective desires for our party and the broader citizenry of our beautiful country,” she said.
Some officials appeared on candidates’ lists purported to align to certain camps.
One of them is defence minister Frans Kapofi who insisted the information was fake news.
“My vote is my secret,” he said.
Finance minister Iipumbu Shiimi and member of parliament Sebastiaan Karupu have distanced themselves from a list of Swapo alleged that central committee candidates have aligned to a Swapo camp.
The list containing 44 names of delegates to the Swapo congress was widely shared on social media on Tuesday night.
Shiimi posted in a WhatsApp group yesterday morning that “I have not approved such a list”.
Speaking to The Namibian yesterday morning, Karupu said the list is not legit as he supports another candidate.
Former cabinet minister Helmut Angula said some candidates are likely to retain their positions.
Angula said he does not have a preferred candidate for any position as the candidates have character-assassinated each other during the campaign. “All of them are all involved in malicious propaganda,” he said. However, he said he will support whoever wins
According to Angula, some of the things that were said during the campaigns were unpalatable when the party was supposed to unite.
“You really never heard any pronouncement about how the candidates will help to shape the policy on unemployment, job creation, industrialisation and promotion of regional partnership,” he said.
He added, “what comes out in public is who is worse than the other person, who is older than the other person, who is younger”.
Angula predicts that things Swapo candidates say against each other will be used against the party by the opposition parties in 2024 to discredit the party. To Swapo, it will be difficult to deny those statements.
Agriculture minister Calle Schlettwein said the approach used by the party during the campaign was good. But it was used to de-campaign individuals instead of winning the hearts and minds of the delegates.
He said the incoming Swapo vice president who by implication could be Namibian president from March 2025 should move away from individualism politics and be responsive to the needs of young people.
This year’s elective congress is different, largely because of the campaign rules that prohibit candidates from holding open public rallies, except campaigning at meetings organised by the secretary general’s office.
Businessman Desmond Amunyela, who owns Windhoek Observer, said he is disappointed in the manner in which the media covered issues around the ruling party. He said the media did not even challenge Geingob’s claim that the campaigning process is an internal party process.
“The media failed to ask critical bread and butter issues. Let them tell us what their exact policies are. Even on issues such as the oil find,” Amunyela said.
“I see the media appears to be intimidated. I’ve seen our media (including mine) regress in being a people’s champion. Today’s media is more interested in who is visiting which farm instead of focusing on the real issues affecting people.”
The media was not allowed to cover Swapo campaigns. Like during the campaign at Ongwediva in October, a journalist was forced by the police to delete pictures, videos and recordings she took during the event.