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Namibia: Ruling Party Chooses Woman as Presidential Candidate

THE congress that elected Swapo vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah as the party’s next presidential candidate for the 2024 elections has been lauded by analysts.

This could, however, be marred by alleged election irregularities that could haunt the ruling party.

There is suspicion from some delegates that the list of Swapo central committee members included people who were not supposed to be on it.

These could lead to court challenges, sources say.

Nandi-Ndaitwah was yesterday effectively confirmed as Swapo’s presidential candidate and president Hage Geingob’s successor.

She beat prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and minister of environment, forestry and tourism Pohamba Shifeta.

Nandi-Ndaitwah garnered 491 votes, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila received 270, and Pohamba Shifeta 91.

Secretary general Sophia Shaningwa retained her position with 430 votes by defeating Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu, who received 343 votes.

Uahekua Herunga, who contested for the deputy secretary general position, scooped 363 votes, Evelyn Nawases-Taayele got 326, and David Hamutenya obtained 92 votes.

President Hage Geingob yesterday announced Nandi-Ndaitwah as Swapo’s presidential candidate for 2024’s presidential election.

“I would like to tell her that her task lying ahead is heavy. Yours truly is just standing in, there will be a congress before 2024 to formally give the wheel to make you to take over my position,” he said.

Geingob was re-elected at yesterday’s congress as the ruling party’s president.

The president yesterday tried to portray a united ruling party leadership despite a bruising campaign that included name calling.

Nandi-Ndaitwah’s team was code-named ‘Old Mutual’ in reference to her age.

Geingob called the losing candidates onto the stage, urging them to share a hug with the winner.

While on the podium, he condemned The Namibian’s headline yesterday saying the ruling party’s congress was rocked by chaos.

“What chaos?” he asked.

Now, fresh concerns are linked to the presiding officer’s decision to eliminate Evelyn Nawases-Tayele from the deputy secretary general race, despite coming second to Kavango West regional coordinator David Amutenya with 326 votes.

Sources familiar with the voting process have described the election process as “highly irregular”.

Swapo congress national election committee spokesperson Audrin Mathe denied these allegations.

He said the voters’ roll credentials were approved by the congress.

“We were only given the list. The one concern that was there was that a man appeared on a female list and vice versa,” he said.

Mathe said delegates without ID cards had to complete forms.

“If you don’t have an ID, then we can accept a driving licence. There are instances where candidates lost their ID cards. I am aware of one case. She went to make an affidavit and we accepted,” he said.

Mathe said the party’s zebra-style rule allowed election officers to remove Nawases-Tayele from the race.

“The rules make it clear that the top four should have a balance between men and women,” he said.

SAARA ACCEPTS DEFEAT

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila yesterday after the announcements said the elections involved a democratic Swapo process.

“Swapo discharged another mandate with distinction. We have run a congress that met international standards, and that’s all we came here to do. It was never about personalities. Swapo won,” she told New Era after the congress.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila got 221 fewer votes than Nandi-Ndaitwah.

Her campaign was led by corruption-accused former mines minister Obeth Kandjoze and politburo member Tobie Aupindi.

Shaningwa yesterday told New Era her re-election shows she is trusted by the electorate.

Minister of defence and veterans affairs Frans Kapofi, who withdrew from the race in September, yesterday said Nandi-Ndaitwah’s victory comes as no surprise.

“It is obvious. You are dealing with people who have different kinds of backgrounds and experiences in politics, and that is what you get,” he said.

Kapofi denied claims that the dominance of the Ohangwena region was the reason for Nandi-Ndaitwah’s win.

“There is no such thing,” he said.

Kapofi said Nandi-Ndaitwah’s age brings the wisdom the party currently needs.

The party’s youth league secretary, Ephraim Nekongo, placed emphasis on unity, telling the other candidates to move on.

“What is important now is for us to unite as a party and move on so that we come to 2024 to see how we mobilise the masses.

“We have provided the first woman president, and it is now up to other women,” he said.

Swapo chief whip Hambyuka Hamunyera told the losing candidates there will be “another time” for them.

Hamunyera, who was also an election observer, said the polling stations closed at 22:22 on Sunday and vote counting started at 02:15 yesterday.

He described the process as long and challenging.

“But we faced those challenges and we are here,” he said.

The chief whip said they wanted a woman president to make some changes.

Hamunyera said the Kavango East and West regions helped Nandi-Ndaitwah and Shaningwa with their wins.

Swapo lawmaker Lucia Witbooi, who supported Nandi-Ndaitwah, yesterday said she has been working for this result since last year.

“I didn’t start yesterday,” she said.

Witbooi insisted that her withdrawal from the race for the deputy secretary general position was the right decision, and denied claims that it was done to make space for male candidates.

Witbooi made it clear that it is the entire party’s responsibility to win back the south, which is dominated by the Landless People’s Movement.

“It is not a Lucia thing alone. It is the responsibility of all of us – from the section leaders, branch, district, regional and national leadership to make sure and to work hard to make sure the south and all the regions we have lost . . . ” she said.

OVERWHELMING VOTES

Political analyst Graham Hopwood says the overwhelming votes in favour of Nandi-Ndaitwah and Shaningwa should make it possible for the party to unite behind them.

“Under Ndaitwah the party will have a credible leader to put forward at the 2024 elections, one that could stabilise the party’s vote or even enable a rebound,” he says.

Hopwood believes the strongest card for Nandi-Ndaitwah was being the anti-corruption candidate.

“I think this helped her to stand out from the other candidates,” Hopwood says.

He says depending on how the party now handles this shift in power could be Swapo’s second breath.

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