President Hage Geingob does not need to position himself for a second term as Head of State, as it is in the culture of Namibia that sitting presidents serve two terms.
This is the view of political commentators, who were speaking amid heated speculation yesterday that Swapo President Hifikepunye Pohamba had on Monday informed the party’s politburo that he wishes to step down from his post.
Swapo Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba refused to confirm this yesterday, saying the nation should wait on Pohamba to pronounce himself on the matter.
Party insiders indicated to Namibian Sun later yesterday that the Swapo Central Committee will be meeting on Friday to pave the way for an extraordinary congress that will elect a permanent replacement for Pohamba. Pohamba was until March 21, the country’s second president, and had won the prestigious Mo Ibrahim prize for exceptional African leadership and for handing over the reins of power in a democratic manner to Geingob.
Many suspect that Pohamba’s decision to supposedly resign as Swapo president was partly influenced by the award, which comes with millions in prize money, but Mbumba dismissed this by saying the award does not impact on party structures.
“That award has to do with how he managed the country and the transition. It has nothing to do with the party structures. Do not create stories. Wait for Pohamba to explain things,” Mbumba told Namibian Sun yesterday. Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Secretary Elijah Ngurare advised on social media that if Pohamba does step down, the rules of the party dictate that the top Swapo officials all move up a notch.
“This means the vice-president (Geingob) becomes president and the secretary-general (Mbumba) becomes vice-president and the current deputy secretary-general (Laura McLeod-Katjirua) becomes secretary-general,” Ngurare posted on Facebook.
“In this regard, a vacancy for a woman will emerge at the deputy secretary-general position in line with 50/50 party policy in terms of the top four. I stand by this principle and nothing else.”
A local daily reported earlier this week that Geingob was apparently pushing for the nomination of his close ally and Swapo Oshikoto Regional Co-ordinator Armas Amukwiyu to act as ruling party vice-president in the event that Pohamba steps and he steps in as leader.
Political commentator Andrew Niikondo said irrespective of whether Pohamba had quit as party president, Geingob does not need to position himself now for a second term in 2020.
“His second term is guaranteed, whether he is the party president or not. He already stands a chance in 2017 to become the party president. It is also highly likely for him to get the position of party president. There is no doubt about that,” Niikondo explained.
“If someone is to take over now as the party president, that will be a temporary arrangement before a congress is convened to elect permanent leaders.”
He said that in this situation, it will be up to the party’s central committee to pave the way for finding Pohamba’s replacement, by calling an extraordinary congress.
Another commentator Kaire Mbuende said Geingob’s second term was not an issue of concern at the moment.
“Every president has served two terms and obviously I wouldn’t think that having a second term will really be an issue of major concern to the current president,” said Mbuende.
“His concern is delivering on his election promises… I do not think there is an issue for apprehension.”
Mbuende stressed that the succession or transition from the vice-presidency to presidency in a party takes place once the sitting party president’s term comes to an end or once they has step down.
He believes this will allow for a smooth process.
Mbuende said it was common in the SADC region for countries to have a different Head of State and ruling party president.
“In the past we have had the former presidents continue to finish their terms as the presidents of their parties. I do not remember a case where a former Head of State, who is the president of a party, resigns before the end of their term.”
“It will not be a surprise if Pohamba decides to step down, because anyone has the right to step down from any position. I wouldn’t be surprised me if he chooses to do so and maybe go into retirement and allow [Geingob] to take over as party leader.”
WINDHOEK ELVIS MURARANGANDA