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Identify issues, not personalities' - Iivula-Ithana

In this exclusive interview, SWAPO Party Secretary General, the straight-talking Cde Pendukeni-Iivula-Ithana, speaks about the Congress, the issues to be discussed, the task of the new leadership to be elected, the election of office-bearers and what is expected of them, issues to be identified and around which to elect corresponding cadres who will best address those issues, non-SWAPO Party members trying to get their way to the Congress using dubious means and many more other issues. Cde Iivula-Ithana was nominated and duly seconded for the position of SWAPO Party Vice Presidency at the last Politburo meeting. She will contest the position with Vice President, Cde Hage Geingob, and SWAPO Party Secretary for Information and Mobilization, Cde Jerry Ekandjo.

Question: Cde Secretary General, preparations for the Congress have been going on now for quite a while, how would you describe the process so far? Are you satisfied with the way the process has been going on? Answer: It is true that the preparations started sometimes ago. This time we have changed the mood of preparing the congress. I thought that our congress should be issuedriven.

We need to concentrate on the issues we have identified and need to resolve at the Congress. We had just held a very successful National Policy Conference, which prepared documents that will eventually be discussed and adopted at the Congress. One of the sub-committees of the National Preparatory Committee, tasked with preparing the documentation, has already finalized its work.

Normally the Congress is prepared in this fashion. First, we set up the National Preparatory Committee, which is made up of the Party's national leadership, plus leaders who are assigned to various regions of the country, so that the process is inclusive and also feeds back and forth to the regions. The National Preparatory Committee is chaired by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who is also President of SWAPO Party.

Of course, the Office of the Secretary General provides information and feeds the Secretariat. We divide ourselves into subcommittees which prepare documents related to certain issues we want to deal with. We have the subcommittees on administration, finance, logistics, entertainment and so on. There are about five or six subcommittees.

These subcommittees have now been working independently of the Secretariat of the Party, but feeding the National Preparatory Committee from time to time, just to brief us how far they have prepared themselves on the assigned tasks. The report we have so far is that everything is going well. We are going to hold a very successful Congress.

Question: Are you happy with the way things are going at the moment?

Answer: Yes, I am. The major part of the preparation is done. The documentation is the most important aspect of the preparation for the Congress. What we had at the National Preparatory Committee showed that we are there. The venue has already been identified.

With regard to transport, we already know more or less how many delegates will be coming and from where. What is key now in this respect is the money aspect. We have reached the target of how much we want to raise. We are basically done.

Question: Two regions have yet to hold their regional conferences. There have been elections in various regions which were nullified by the Party leadership. What actually went wrong when the rules and procedures, as well as the Party Constitution, were so clear?

Answer: One thing that I have realized, being at the helm of the administration of the Party, is that some colleagues who are in charge of the Party affairs in the regions have not done their work as it was supposed to have been done. The Party has a Constitution, which is the overall guiding principle in whatever we say and do. We have rules and procedures which must be followed. We have the Political Programme. But unfortunately, most of our cadres on the ground did not follow the sacred provisions in those documents.

I was really surprised. Some regions in the past apparently never used to hold elections. At branch level, the branch coordinator would go and pick those to go to the district conference, literary picking friends and relatives who they agree with. But individuals within these branches are aware of the stipulations in the Constitution.

They just chose to ignore them. We insisted that they should hold free and fair elections. To our surprise, they started challenging the rules and procedures, as well as the Constitution. Even at regional levels, some regions could manipulate they system in such a way that while the Constitution says that those to come to the regional conferences must be delegates from the district conferences, they do the opposite.

Rules and procedures, as well as Constitutional provisions were plainly violated. People simply picked those they thought would advance their interest and leaving behind those who were elected. We talk about democracy somehow by word of mouth. But we are not internalizing these principles. We are not. If we were really internalizing these principles, we were not going to sit down and listen to stories as if they were just made up. But in reality, these things have happened, unfortunately. I just felt that if the cadres of the Party would take time and study the Constitution very well, and do things as they are supposed to be done, we would not have all these nullifications.

Question: What lessons have we learned from such mishaps?

Answer: We have learned very good lessons. The Party should seriously consider the establishment of the Party School. In whatever form we set it up, it must come into being urgently. Whoever is going to run a party office at whatever level, must go through the basic tenets of how the Party works. They should know that these are the ground rules and procedures that they can't violate at will.

Should they ignore those rules and procedures and the Constitution, they should know too that there would be serious consequences. Some people have been coordinators since independence and they did not even care to know how the Constitution operates because they got used to doing things their own ways. Now, when they are being challenged, it becomes a problem.

To be frank, nobody wants to nullify elections conducted by a Party institution. But if such elections are not done within the framework of the Constitution, and the set rules and procedures, obviously they cannot go unchallenged.

Question: Last week, I spoke to Cde Richard Kamwi, leader of the national leaders assigned to Otjozondjupa Region. He is very disturbed by the way things are going. He says there is just no discipline at all. Is the Party getting loose on discipline? Are some members of the Party going astray, sacrificing the Party Constitution for political expediency and individuals' interests?

Answer: Frankly speaking, I don't know what is going on. But the hype that has grasped the Namibian with regard to the upcoming congress defies understanding. Even Namibians who are not members of SWAPO Party want to come to the Congress. It is very interesting. Just imagine a person who does not have a SWAPO Party membership card but still wants to come to the Congress! When a SWAPO Party district conference is held, they come and they want to be elected and be delegates to the Congress.

Maybe it used to happen before, but I have never experienced it before. This is one of the issues I have picked up in certain regions. Sometimes when you look at a national leader who does not see anything wrong with none-Party members participating in Party activities at that level, you start wondering. What is the agenda? What is the intention of that person? It is very worrisome.

Some people even want to pay just to come to the Congress. "How much should I pay, I must be at that Congress. How much can I pay?" You ask yourself, when did this become a business? And a leader who is approached in this fashion feels that there must be a facilitation of some kind so that such a person is allowed to go to the ConCongress. SWAPO Party is not on sale.

If you say that Cde, this is not in line with the Constitution, then you are not a good comrade. This is the hype that I am talking about. The Party Constitution is now being set aside, people want to do as they please. I say no, SWAPO Party is not a revolving kind of situation, as Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange used to say.

SWAPO Party is not on sale. You cannot enter it through dubious means and get out through other dubious means and go and return to wherever you came from. These are some of the disturbing trends that I resent. I know this is what Dr Kamwi is referring to, and he is right.

Question: There are also reports of money changing hands in the regions, people being paid to elect individuals to come to the congress. Names of people who have received such money and revealed the names of those who gave such money have been printed in newspapers. As Secretary General, how do you feel about such things?

Answer: My dear Asser, I don't know what is going on. As I have said earlier, there is an unprecedented hype in the country about the upcoming SWAPO Party Congress.

I am very disturbed that in spite of our determination to fight corruption in the country outright, we say zero-tolerance on corruption, nothing has been done to investigate such allegations. These are revelations made publicly.

We have the Anti-Corruption



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Windhoek, Katutura