FORMER president Hifikepunye Pohamba has allegedly asked minister of defence and veterans affairs Frans Kapofi to withdraw from Swapo’s vice presidential race.
The former president reportedly also tried to convince minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta to abandon his bid for the throne – a move that appears to have been made to possibly give deputy prime minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah a better chance at challenging prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila for the vice president position.
But Shifeta, also known as president Hage Geingob’s ‘prodigal son’, allegedly refused to back down and said he was marching on.
Three sources familiar with the matter has confirmed Pohamba’s phone call to Kapofi.
Kapofi is said to have given in to Pohamba’s pressure and suddenly pulled out of the vice president race last week before nominees were presented to the public – just when everyone was talking about him being Geingob’s preferred candidate.
“I don’t know anything about that. I was not called by Pohamba. Many people called me for a number of reasons, but not to tell me to withdraw,” the defence minister said this week.
“I withdrew for personal reasons, and that is that. I do not need to explain myself.”
The Namibian has in the past reported that Kapofi was Geingob’s preferred candidate. But sources say the president knew his choice was vulnerable to withdrawing from the race.
Efforts to get comment from Pohamba’s office were not successful.
Geingob’s camp is allegedly fuming at Pohamba’s decision to convince Kapofi to withdraw from the race.
The introduction of Shifeta and Kapofi was seen as a way for Geingob to split the Ohangwena region’s vote, which is one of the dominant voting blocks in Swapo and also Nandi-Ndaitwah’s home region.
Kapofi and Shifeta are both from the Ohangwena region.
Pohamba is said to have told Kapofi and Shifeta they shouldn’t “compete with people from one house” or “divide the region”.
Shifeta this week confirmed to The Namibian that he and Pohamba discussed his candidature on the phone.
“Yes, we spoke. The discussion was in confidence. It was about the election and my candidature. But I have not concluded or made a decision on that yet. Discussions with someone of that calibre is normally supposed to be confidential. He is my senior and my elder,” Shifeta said.
He said he was not put under any pressure to make a decision.
“It’s best that the further nature of discussion be made by the former president and not me, because this is really not how I am brought up,” he said.
Last week Shifeta told The Namibian he was not withdrawing from the race because his mind was already made up.
“I am not withdrawing, and I will never withdraw,” he said.
It is unclear whether this position would change.
Geingob’s and Pohamba’s camp was once so powerful and united that it dominated the party from 2012 to 2017.
At the time Geingob appears to have assured Nandi-Ndaitwah he would back her bid to succeed him.
SHIFETA DISTANCES HIMSELF FROM KORA SCANDAL
Shifeta also spoke to The Namibian yesterday about his campaign and why he decided to run.
The 54-year-old politician said he evaluated his abilities and knows he can run the party.
“I then looked at my experience stretching from branches, the Namibia National Students Organisation, and now national level. I evaluated my abilities and told myself I am able to execute the task, and as a student of law and political science, I can do it,” he said.
Shifeta is up against Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and Nandi-Ndaitwah in the vice presidential race.
Whoever wins will become the party’s 2024 presidential candidate.
He said should he emerge victorious at the congress that is set to gather 700 delegates, he can win the Presidency, because he knows how to “handle” the opposition.
“Challenges will be there, but I am ready to tackle them. Most leaders in other movements and political parties were once in Swapo and were my colleagues.
“We have worked together at some point. I know how to handle them [in a democratic way]. Most of them are even of my generation, so I know what to do,” Shifeta said.
Shifeta hails from Ongenga in the Ohangwena region and has served in the Swapo central committee for 10 years.
“I will bring new perspectives and fresh ideas to the table. The creation of youth employment, their empowerment, growing the economy, developing our rural areas and digital technology are among those I will focus on,” he said.
Shifeta, who has been bombarded with criticism over the alleged missing millions of the Kora Awards in Namibia, said he cannot be blamed for it.
He said the decision to pay N$23 million was after an agreement between the Namibia Tourism Board and the Kora All Africa Music Awards leadership was reached.
The government coughed up N$23 million in 2015 for the event which never took place.
“My advice was always clear from the beginning: paying money into some foreign accounts was a problem. I warned them to open a local bank account, but as it is with dealing with many people, my warning was not taken,” Shifeta said.
Documents back up Shifeta’s stance, including how former attorney general Sacky Shanghala clashed with him over the payment to alleged fraudster Ernest Adjovi.