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      Swapo amendments should not benefit individuals – Amathila

      by Sonja Smith

      Photo: Contributed

      FORMER Cabinet minister Ben Amathila has warned against making changes to the ruling party's constitution and blocking potential competitors to suit certain individuals in Swapo.

      In 2018, Swapo amended its constitution, adding a raft of new rules, including being “consistently and persistently” a member of the ruling party's Soviet-styled politburo and central committee.

      Another regulation was that the candidates vying for top positions should have not been a member of any other political party after the formation of Swapo in 1960.

      The change to the constitution could affect who will compete for top positions in the ruling party, such as the vice president, who will eventually represent Swapo in the 2024 presidential elections.

      Amathila says the rules should not exclude people from competing for leadership positions.

      “The constitution can always be amended, but it should not be done solely to suit certain individuals. It will be worthless,” the Swapo veteran told The Namibian yesterday.

      “For example: If we take a person like Iivula-Ithana ... she has served in all structures for long, and if a member in the politburo wants to nominate her, she can be accepted,” he said.

      Amathila said he was there when the 'Helmut amendments' were passed into the party's constitution in 2018.

      The Namibian yesterday reported that plans are advanced for Swapo to reduce the number of membership years a candidate needs to compete for top party positions.

      Some Swapo think tank members have suggested that the congress should be postponed to 2024 – a recommendation described by some as highly unpopular.

      Amathila said he supports the notion of having a female president, but warned that elected political officials should not “do things that take the party back”.

      “The founding father has expressed himself in support of a female candidate, and it is something that has been on the cards for years,” he said.

      Incumbent party vice-president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila are currently tipped for the vice president challenge at this year's congress.

      The amendments to the Swapo congress could increase the number of potential candidates who want to take over from Geingob as Swapo's presidential candidate for the 2024 elections.

      The changes could play in favour of Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who was appointed to the politburo in October 2013.

      Currently, an individual who wants to be the Swapo vice president must be a party member for a minimum of 15 years, and should have served in the central committee and political bureau for 10 years.

      “No party member shall be eligible for election as vice president of Swapo party unless he or she is a Namibian citizen by birth or descent, and has persistently and consistently been a member of the party for a continuous minimum period of 15 years,” the current constitution says.

      Swapo secretary general Sophia Shaningwa declined to comment on the possible amendments.

      “There are elders in front of us, they must speak on it first,” she said yesterday.

      Khomas governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua yesterday said she was not aware of the proposed changes.

      She said an explanation needs to be provided by those proposing changes, because “at no point was it ever discussed”.

      “Those proposing the changes must explain why it is important and why it is discussed with the media first and not us,” McLeod-Katjirua said.

      Former Cabinet minister Erkki Nghimtina said the current requirements exclude young people.

      “Is it because we don't want the youth to come, or what is it? Now you have all these years of service which does not qualify young blood in the party, it is not correct. All these issues need to be worked out. Just like the Namibian Constitution. At 35, a person is ready to lead,” he said.

      Swapo politburo member and minister of home affairs, immigration, safety and security Albert Kawana said changes should be discussed in the party's structures.

      “From section, branches, district, regional and finally national. It is new to me and we have never heard of it. It's normal to propose changes, but they must go through the structures,” Kawana said.

      Minister of works and transport John Mutorwa, a long-serving politician of Swapo, including of the politburo, says.

      “If the proposed changes have not been documented, then I have no views on them. Only when they are discussed at a forum which I am a part of, I can,” he said.

      'EWALLET POLITICS'

      Swapo veteran Nahas Angula yesterday warned against “eWallet politics”, involving that votes are bought at the upcoming Swapo elective congress.

      Angula yesterday responded to moves within the ruling party to reduce the number of years a candidate needs to compete for top party positions, such as president and vice president.

      “Politics today is being used as a business, and there is a new vocabulary in town called eWallet politics. It means those with money buy power with votes. They do this by eWalleting money in exchange for being voted for,'' he said.

      He said the Swapo constitution is a living document, and “whatever changes made should move with the times, needs and ideals of the party”.

      “The constitution should not discriminate against some members, but we should make sure we are not being used.”


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