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Battle for Namibian presidency heats up

Youth, Sport and Culture Minister Kazenambo Kazenambo has vowed that he will unleash a "tsunami" against Swapo Youth League secretary general Elijah Ngurare.

In an interview with a weekly newspaper – widely seen as a backer of Trade Minister Hage Geingob's bid for the presidency in 2014 – the outspoken Kazenambo rejected Ngurare's recent unopposed re-election as the youth league's boss.

He said Ngurare was a "fake" and a "political ghost", who appeared as if out of nowhere in 2000.

Ngurare, whose loyalties lie with Swapo's secretary general, Justice Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, in turn said Kazenambo behaved "like a chicken on drugs" [and] "an unrehabilitable political delinquent".

The war of words between the pair is just the latest sign of a widening crack in Swapo's façade of unity as the fight for the 2014 presidential candidacy heats up.

In the past month, results from seven out of 13 regional conferences  – which decide who will attend the congress in November that will select the next presidential candidate – have been annulled by the party's headquarters over alleged irregularities and vote-buying.

Losing side
Recently, there were indications that Geingob, who is Swapo's vice- president, could be on the losing side because Iivula-Ithana's control over the day-to-day running of the party's affairs has given her a distinct ­tactical advantage.

Earlier this year, President Hifikepunye Pohamba forbade any campaigning for positions for his successor, but all the signs are that the November congress could be a repeat of the one in 2004 that elected him over former trade minister Hidipo Hamutenya.

In that election, Hamutenya was defeated after Prime Minister Nahas Angula split the pro-reformist vote and delivered victory to Pohamba, who was former president Sam Nujoma's preferred candidate.

Hamutenya, who was unceremoniously fired as trade minister by Nujoma on the day he announced his candidacy, broke away from Swapo in 2007 with several other senior politicians and formed the opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress.

Liberation war hero Ben Ulenga broke away years before – in 1999 – to form the Congress of Democrats.

With Swapo having suffered two breakaways by rebels, an Angula presidential candidacy appears the surest way for Swapo to stay united, although the congress will be another three-way fight between Geingob, Iivula-Ithana and Angula.

Angula's decision to stand as a presidential candidate appeared to have drawn on the lessons learnt in 2004: although Geingob would ­conceivably be willing to serve in a possible Angula Cabinet, Iivula-Ithana's more vengeful nature would alienate him.

Geingob, Namibia's prime minister from 1990 to 2002, is seen as a progressive and pro-business candidate, whereas Iivula-Ithana's support is centred in the youth league. 

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John Grobler
Guest Author

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