Inside the Swapo SG Race…the ‘Engine Room’ Battle Gives Veterans and Experts Perspective


For the ruling party to return to its glory days, its next secretary general must be energetic, upright, understand Swapo intimately, and be able to transcend petty partisan politics for the benefit of the country.

This view was advanced by several Swapo veterans and local experts when asked about the coveted positions at the upcoming intra-party convention as candidates are vetted.

Next Monday, the candidates for the positions of party vice-president, general secretary and deputy SG will be nominated at a meeting of the political bureau.

Five days later, nomination opportunities will also be opened at a central committee meeting.

In most other political formations, the SG is one of the most powerful politicians, if not the most powerful.

In the halls of Swapo, it is informally referred to as the “Engine Room”.

Along with lucrative perks and a place at the high table, the position comes with immense political power.

The SG presides over a multi-billion dollar business empire and sits in the Cabinet [as the direct link between Swapo and government]a place in the National Assembly, and has a huge base of support.

This week, New Era spoke to commentators and party figures to gauge the prospects of ideal candidates for the job in the face of waning support for Swapo in successive polls.


Veteran journalist Tileni Mongudhi said Swapo’s first step towards redemption and identifying a suitable SG is to accept that his popularity among the electorate has plummeted.

He attributed this to dissident parties [Independent Patriots for Change and Landless People’s Movement]the Fishrot scandal, internal factions and Panduleni Itula’s candidacy for the presidency in 2019 while still a Swapo card member.

“There is a perception that the ruling party is corrupt and unable to bring change or reinvent itself,” Mongudhi said, while noting that blame cannot be placed squarely on outgoing SG Sophia Shaningwa.

“The new SG must be able to exercise legitimacy with the electorate. He needs to be able to sit down with his cabinet colleagues and demand service delivery. You need an SG who can read and understand policies, and connect the ruling party’s manifesto – which the ruling party promised the masses – to what the government delivers.

Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah agrees.

He went further, however, calling on Swapo’s next senior administrator to be inclusive and reflect the party’s core values.

“The SG needs to manage diversity and make sure governance or government reflects that,” he said.

Appointments to key government posts such as police, ambassadorial posts and ministerial roles should reflect the country’s diverse ethnic makeup, he added.

Additionally, the SG must be a mix of a savvy politician, who can bring the masses back to Swapo, while simultaneously being a corporate administrator or technocrat.

“The SG must be listening. Someone who is not arrogant and stretches their imagination across party lines. He or she must welcome opposition parties and demanding voices knowing that their voices matter in nation building,” Kamwanyah explained.

no magic

Swapo’s chief administrator between 2012 and 2017 and current national vice-president Nangolo Mbumba said there was no blueprint for an ideal SG.

It is up to the more than 700 delegates to decide.

“Those who want to get in the ring, let them jump, and then we will see which one is supported by the majority of the delegates. What you are trying to fish out, there is nothing magical in terms of practical work to be done” , did he declare.

Mbumba then refused to pass judgment on the performance of his successor.

Before the congress, the politician is impressed by the way the debates have been executed. Credit in this regard goes to Shaningwa.

The former SG was quick to say that whoever emerges as the successful candidate beyond Nov. 27 must have an intimate understanding of Swapo, the ability to bridge the generation gap and advance women’s issues.

“They must know the history of this party. They must have experience working with people. We want people who can recognize gender issues and deal with them. We want people who can recognize the youth element, that is, the greatest number of people.

While Mbumba’s tenure is shrouded in enigma, he refused to delve into it, instead promising to write a book about it to avoid influencing delegates.

“I want people to come with an open mind, the energy and the will to serve all Namibians,” he noted.


Several names have been floated as potential candidates for the SG gong.

As a starter, Shaningwa does not need a nomination to compete. Whether she contests or not is up to her.

Meanwhile, Swapo’s Oshikoto coordinator Armas Amukwiyu, who competed and lost to Shaningwa, has reportedly expressed interest in trying again.

“I am not sure about these discussions. If they exist, they occur beyond my knowledge,” he said on Tuesday.

Former SG Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and ex-Minister Katrina Hanse-Himarwa have all expressed interest in returning to the national political scene.

Meanwhile, former Deputy General Secretary Laura McLeod Katjirua, MP Tobie Aupindi, Deputy Labor Minister Veikko Nekundi and former Swapo Party Youth League Secretary Elijah Ngurare are seen as dark horses in the race for power.

Aupindi and Ngurare did not respond to questions this week.

Nekundi is believed to be a shrewd operator, who has always kept his opponents and even his allies in the dark about his strategy.

Attempts to get a comment from him proved futile.


Hanse-Himarwa has openly declared his interest in the assistant SG position.

In Swapo circles, she is outspoken and a known strong supporter of Swapo’s current leadership under President Hage Geingob.

Until her fall from grace in 2019 when she was found guilty of corruption, Hanse-Himarwa was one of Geingob’s “blue-eyed” comrades.

In Swapo, it seems that she still commands the respect of her comrades.

Asked about the type of administrator to which the party aspires, she replied: “I don’t know. Let the other people who are not participating in the contest speak.

Khomas Governor McLeod-Katjirua was also low-key.

“No comment.”


Swapo stalwart Helmut Angula also praised Shaningwa for doing an incredible job steering the ship under “difficult circumstances”.

In 2017, Angula ran unsuccessfully for vice-president of the party.

“The party faces so many divisions and an inability to have a compelling common program for the people. It is not an ideal position that the person [Shaningwa] is now,” he added.

Like Mbumba, he too agrees that a daunting task awaits whoever takes up this position.

The new SG must “have popular support. A person who is not attached to factionalism and who has the power to unite the young, the old and the middle-aged. The SG must be energetic, not a novice who has just tried. We need someone who is known to the structures.

It will take a miracle, however, for either Ngurare or Aupindi to come close to competition in the face of the “Helmut Amendments”, changes to the Swapo constitution dictating that those who aspire to the top four positions must have served consistently and persistently in the central committee. during 10 years.

These rules are likely to be in effect until the convention.

Angula is considered the sponsor of the amendment. “When the changes were made, no one predicted that the most reliable and experienced executives would be marginalized and sidelined,” he said.

Now, four years later, the hens have come home to roost.

“If the party leadership is guilty of eliminating its trusted cadres, then the leadership must blame itself. We are only reaping our own fruits that we have sown unwittingly,” he continued.

More than 700 delegates will meet in Windhoek on November 24 to decide the direction of the party.

Geingob’s position will not be disputed.


Happy times… Swapo SG Sophia Shaningwa and former Minister of Education Katrina Hanse-Himarwa embrace.

Photo: Emmency Nuukala

2022-09-02 Edward Mumbuu

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