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SWAPO Electoral College above board

By Staff Reporters
SWAPO Party Secretary General, Cde Nangolo Mbumba, has described last weekend's Electoral College as successful, saying that everything was done above board. In this exclusive interview with Namibia Today's Editor, Asser Ntinda, Cde Mbumba said the rules were applied fairly, leaving no room for ill-feelings within the Party's leadership. But he also said that if there were people who felt that the conduct before, during and after the Electoral College was not fairly carried through, such people were welcome to put forward their complaints through the Party's structures.

Question: SWAPO Party just held its Electoral College where candidates for the 96 seats in the National Assembly were elected. As Secretary General, how did the feared Hot Pot go?

Answer: Everything went well. All Central Committee members were invited. There was no apology. All members of the National Assembly who are not members of the Central Committee were invited and all attended the Electoral College. Nobody sent in an apology or an excuse.

Nobody was sick, sick enough not to attend the meeting. Nobody was out of the country. They were all here. In terms of the wings, all the delegates were there. All delegates and candidates from the 14 regions were there. In terms of the Electoral College being representative, I can proudly say it was well representative. All the regions were equally represented - six delegates and two candidates per region.

The venue was big enough. Protocol and security wise, everything went well. President Hifikepunye Pohamba's three messages - in the opening, closed door session and the closing statements - were very clear. That was the reason we did not have a press conference afterwards.

The results were announced to everybody at the same time. No one, not even President Hifikepunye Pohamba, was briefed on the results by the Presiding Officer prior to the public announcement of the results. Both President Pohamba and Founding President, Dr Sam Nujoma, were invited like anybody else to attend and hear the results at the same time like all the delegates and candidates. The Electoral College went administratively very well.

Question: As Secretary General of SWAPO Party, are you happy with the outcome of the Electoral College?

Answer: You cannot question the results of those who have voted. It is useless to say 'I am happy because Asser Ntinda is on the list or I am not happy because Nangolo Mbumba is not on the list.' Everybody had a chance to vote. This time we were told to vote for the same number of men and women. This really brought about some element of discipline.

There were only four spoilt ballots - one on the side women and three on the side of men. This was very interesting. We should not have spoilt ballots at that level because these were leaders. These were national and regional leaders. They should know how to vote. But we all make mistakes, but to have four spoilt ballots was just too much of a mistake by national leaders.

Question: You are a seasoned politician. You have been with SWAPO for many years, before and after independence. You have attended many SWAPO Party electoral colleges. Were there any surprises, may be something you, as Secretary General, did not expect?

Answer: The surprise was that so many leaders whom we have known for many years, leaders who were seen as key in terms of the history of the Party, were out of the list. When we were in exile, we knew who the leaders in defence, diplomacy, education, health and so on, were. In terms of true national leadership, there was only one Sam Nujoma, and not many Sam Nujomas.

However, we have now reached a level where the first and second presidents of our country are retiring. Dr Nujoma has already retired. It is only because of the love of his country and the Party that he is still around, serving his people. And we are grateful for that. President Pohamba has firmly told us that his second term is coming to an end. He told us to elect someone who would succeed him. We should therefore not cry that we are not yet prepared. We took that decision in 2012 when we elected Dr Hage Geingob to succeed him. That is done. We are prepared.

Then came the time when we had to choose people we should put on the list for the National Assembly seats. They say that any generation is a difference of 25 years. After almost 25 years of independence, we now have new, younger, much younger people who are coming in the fold. They physically look better than us. They look more charming than us. They speak fluent English better than us. And they look more energetic and eager to work than us.

This is the world of information and communication technology, ICT. They understand these gadgets far better than us. We should just accept the people who have come in. None of them has been less than ten years in the Party. Most of them were already politically active at independence.

They represent the wings, the unions and all the regions. Most importantly, they are now 50/50 in terms of gender equality. They should realize that this is a historic opportunity for them. They must make sure they are united and strong.

They must be ready to work on weekends and throughout the months. We know that it is not going to be easy for them. But they must work for the interest of the Party and the country, as well as the welfare of the people of this country.

Question: What is it like seeing your old colleagues, cadres you have worked with for so many years, not coming back to the National Assembly?

Answer: They are still in the leadership of the Party. Some of them are members of the Politburo and the Central Committee of SWAPO Party. They are not going anywhere. We are not saying goodbye to them yet. We are still working together.

Question: What do you think were the deciding factors at this year's Electoral College, which saw many long-serving and tested leaders being pushed to the bottom of the parliamentary list?

Answer: It is very difficult to say. It is very difficult to speak for everybody. The deciding factor is that the regions have been given power. Each region sent six delegates and two candidates for the pot. I think that is a new element. We want all the regions to be well represented.

We want at least each region to have one or two representatives in the National Assembly, subject to the election, subject to the fact that those people are able and have been in the Party for a long time. I think the regions are now the deciding factors, and they were the deciding factors at this Electoral College.

Question: Some of the candidates sent by the wings and the union could not make it on the list. What could be the reason for this?

Answer: It is very difficult to say. I am just guessing as anybody else. I think some of the union leaders declined to stand. They probably thought that what they were doing was fine for the workers, keeping the unions organized and united. For those who were available and could not make it, I think they did not campaign as hard as they should have done.

They probably did not network with the regions who were a deciding factor at the Electoral College. They needed to properly network with the regional coordinators. Regional coordinators meet from time to time.

Candidates and delegates needed to network with them and canvass for support. Nevertheless, despite what has happened, the union remains a strong component of the Party. We still have union leaders in the Party leadership, as well as in the National Assembly.

Question: There have been media reports that the procedures were not fully complied with. Some of the rules, especially Rule 77 which forbids de-campaigning, were allegedly not fully complied with. Some of the leaders who are at the bottom of the list, allege that they were caught offguard and were unfairly decampaigned, and that was the reason they performed poorly. Was there perhaps any form of overt or covert de-campaigning there?

Answer: I would rather say that those who think so should read those rules once again. If there is anything they think should be done, they know how to approach the Party structures. The rules are very clear, easy and simple for anybody to read.

You don't need a lawyer to explain them for you. Let them follow the procedures. The rules are there for everybody. If they think something was not done this way or that way, they know how to follow the procedures and put forward their complaints.

Question: As far as you are concerned, everything was above board?

Answer: Definitely. Question: People make conclusions easily. If you look at where leaders like Comrades Jerry Ekandjo and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana are on the list, people are asking questions as to what might have happened. Cde Ekandjo has always been among the top four, either number one or two, elected there by the same SWAPO Party which has suddenly pushed him to number 81. What happened? Do you think that their shots at the Vice Presidency at the elective 2012 SWAPO Party Congress might have influenced the outcome of the Electoral College? Even those who supported both Cdes Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana are way far down on the list.

Answer: I can't say that. On my side, I have worked here at the Headquarters with Cde Iivula-Ithana as her Deputy. We worked together nicely. I have worked with Cde Jerry Ekandjo.

Cde Jerry Ekandjo is a unique person. He is always ready to work. He can call you wherever he is, be it at his farm, he is always ready to work for the Party. I would have loved to see him high up on the list, not necessarily at the bottom where he is today. But that is me, and my vote is only one. The issue is that even if the President votes for you, others may not vote for you. That is how people end up high or low on the list.

But we should be able to keep the house together. We should be able to differ, but we should not make our differences permanent. In politics, everything is possible. They say that in politics, a year is like a decade. We must be able to work for and look after the interest of the mother body SWAPO Party.

True, these are leaders who have greatly contributed to the building of this nation and to the unity of the Party. But they have greatly contributed like anybody else. We also have leaders who have lost out, leaders like Ben Amathila and Theo-Ben Gurirab.

These are leaders who were there at the beginning when SWAPO Party was being formed, especially Cde Ben Amathila. We cannot say that they lost because they were targeted. I am sure that they will equally do well in future. In politics, you sometimes go up and down for all kinds of reasons.

But we must learn to lift ourselves up and run and campaign aggressively for 2017.

Question: You are actually saying there are no ill-feelings at all, SWAPO Party is united as ever?

Answer: I have to work on that basis. I believe SWAPO Party is united. I will be the last person to want us not to work together. Every leader must feel at home. We must learn to overcome these problems. There are problems everywhere. They say if you lose, and you are happy because you have lost, you will be a permanent loser.

Sometimes an element of saying "whatever happened to me this time, will never happen to me again because I am going to work harder than others, network smartly better than others" works. We should not make it an issue that because we have lost today, we must now destroy the Party or create havoc within the Party. It will not help. There are many people who have gone down in elections again and again, but they revive themselves and win.

Actually, the better we behave as committed Party cadres and leaders, the safer and stronger SWAPO Party becomes. There are people who have come to me as Secretary General, saying that don't worry about us because we are either down the list or not very high up. We will remain cadres of the Party. We will work hard. We will make our contributions to the Presidential and National Assembly elections. We will be there to do whatever the Party demands us to do.

Question: We only have two months to go before the Presidential and National Assembly elections. What is the way forward? What do you want Party members and leaders to do between now and November?

Answer: Now that the SWAPO Party Manifesto has been launched, we will campaign every weekend in all the regions, in all the constituencies and in all the villages. National leaders assigned to the regions should visit their regions. Regions will have the opportunity to invite national leaders to address rallies and meetings in those regions.

As for the President, Vice President, and Founding President, their meetings and rallies will be coordinated by the SWAPO Party National Headquarters. Whenever the President, Vice President or Founding President goes to a particular region, we want to make sure that leaders assigned to that reWe must campaign in a coordinated manner. We will effectively and maximally utilize our senior leaders where they are needed and where they will make maximum impacts. We want this campaign to be a celebration.

We do not need hardnosed people who will just insult people. Democracy should be a celebration. People must be able to sing their national and party anthems. The President's message is very clear - we should conduct these elections in a peaceful manner. Nobody should quarrel or antagonize another person. If you are appealing for my vote, talk to me in a friendly way. You cannot insult me to vote for you. No. it does not work that way.

We should also maintain the distance of 500 meters from each other to avoid confusion and confrontation. If your group starts fighting another group, that is not campaigning, that is not voting. That is plain nonsense. That is just plain stupidity. Let us appeal to the people of Namibia to vote for SWAPO Party based on our Manifesto, our record of achievements and the programme of our Party, as well as what we have promised to do in the Manifesto over the next five years and beyond. Those are the issues that matter most.

Question: As far as SWAPO Party is concerned, victory is certain?

Answer: We are not going into these elections because we want to lose. Not at all! We are not a Party of losers. We overcame the struggle for independence. We won the 1989 elections when South Africa and their police were here. We have overwhelmingly won all the previous elections because we enjoy the support of our people.

We are confident that our message will still be the most believable one and the strongest. We know how to run the government. We know how to keep the people united. We know how to maintain peace and security. We know how to keep and maintain friendship with our neighbours. We are not going to provoke our neighbours.