Namibia: ‘Helmut Amendments’ Explained… Only Johnnies-Come-Lately Face Top Four Exclusion

The long-drawn-out confusion over the infamous ‘Helmut amendments’, which appeared to have limited prospective candidates’ chances of contesting for the top four positions in Swapo, has seemingly been put to rest.

It has since emerged the amendments only affect those who joined the ruling party after 2018 when their constitution was amended.

New Era understands card-carrying and bona fide members outside formal structures will be given a chance to stand at the much-talked-about congress in November, if nominated.

Dubbed the ‘Helmut amendments’, the alterations require those aiming for the top four positions to have “persistently and consistently” been members of the CC, and a party member for 20 consecutive years.

Swapo stalwart Helmut Angula is said to be their godfather. He wanted to protect the former liberation struggle movement from infiltration by overnight politicians driven by power, glory and greed, who see Swapo membership as their ticket to stardom.

Those said to be lobbying for support and seeking elderly Swapo blessings at night include Cabinet ministers Frans Kapofi, Tom Alweendo and parliamentarian Tobie Aupindi.

Both Kapofi and Aupindi have publicly blasted the 2018 amendments, a year after the assembly which left comrades with bloody noses and smiles, in equal measure.

Speaking during an interview with popular NBC talk show ‘One on One’, Aupindi opened the floodgates, saying all Swapo members in good standing stand a chance in Saturday’s nomination. He also demystified the notion that Angula singlehandedly delivered the amendments like a thief at night.

“It was us as a collective leadership

of Swapo that literally amended the constitution at the congress,” he said before delving into the specifics.

“Those amendments don’t actually prevent anyone from contesting. Any Swapo member has a right to contest for any position, if they so wish,” he said. The former youth leader accused Swapo members and commentators alike for reading the constitution wrongly.

“The transitional provisions state that any right or privilege that has been enjoyed by a member prior to the amendment will

continue to be a right and privilege within the confines of the constitution,” he added.

In essence, the amendments are pointless. The former Namibia Wildlife Resort boss continued: “So, as they stand now, any Swapo member, whether they are members of the CC or outside, can contest for any position they want. I say this with no fear of contradiction.”

For Kapofi, being a member of the CC does not necessarily denote competence. He went further. The current interpretation of the contested rules block even those who contributed to Swapo immensely, even putting their lives on the line, from contesting. He pointed to the exodus of army and police generals who made up the People’s Liberation Army of Namibia (PLAN) as prime examples.

PLAN was Swapo’s military wing during the liberation struggle. At independence, ex-PLAN members were absorbed either by the new national defence or police forces.

This, however, did not take away their loyalty to Swapo or their liberation credentials. There was one problem: as uniformed officers, they were required to remain apolitical, meaning there was no way they could have miraculously ascended to Swapo’s top echelon – the CC.

Others, like Kapofi, were civil servants for most of their post-independence careers. “There are PLAN members who have made immense contributions to Swapo’s course and have valuable experience.

They can contribute. Like the retired police general [referring to former police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga]. So, this is not personally for me,” he continued.

Meritocracy

More so, in the public discourse, talk has reached fever pitch over whether the next Swapo leader and by extension Namibia’s next president should be female. So far, only two females have been nominated for the vice presidency.

Swapo vice president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila’s candidatures were confirmed during a politburo meeting earlier this week.

Another round of nominations, which will also include an elimination process, would be undertaken during this Saturday’s CC meeting. Aupindi, however, holds the view that gender is a secondary consideration when juxtaposed against issues confronting Namibians daily.

He pointed to the skyrocketing unemployment levels, the high cost of living, fluctuating oil and grain prices [worsened by the Russia-Ukraine conflict] and a jittery economy. For him, meritocracy must reign supreme if Namibia is to reach the promised land: economic emancipation.

“All those problems are not gender-related. They are knowledge-related. Therefore, we are going to elect a leader who is competent to tackle those issues. It doesn’t call upon us to elect a president just because the person is a woman,” he stressed.

Separation

Although Kuugongelwa-Amadhila will have to pass the CC’s litmus test over the weekend, Nandi-Ndaitwah is guaranteed a chance to defend her position.

On the secretary general front, the 2017 scenario, where ambitious Oshikoto regional coordinator Armas Amukwiyu squared off against incumbent Sophia Shaningwa, is likely to repeat itself as the former’s contestation was also sanctioned by the politburo.

Parliamentarians Lucia Witbooi and Evelyn Nawases-Tayele as well as little-known Swapo coordinator for Kavango West David Hamutenya were all nominated for the position of deputy secretary general. The congress is slated for 24 November.

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