Monday, November 3, 2014

Namibia: Meet the presidential candidates

A total of 16 parties are registered with the ECN but its Director of Operations said only nine parties submitted names for the presidential election.
The all-male candidates include Swapo’s Hage Geingob, Hidipo Hamutenya of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), the DTA’s McHenry Venaani, the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters’ (NEFF’s) Epafras Mukwiilongo and Swanu’s Usutuaije Maamberua.
Also in the race for State House are the Congress of Democrats’ (CoD’s) Ben Ulenga, the All People’s Party’s (APP’s) Ignatius Shixwameni, National Unity Democratic Organisation’s (Nudo’s) Asser Mbai and the Republican Party’s (RP’s) Henk Mudge.
The announcement followed a morning session at the ECN offices yesterday for the nomination of the presidential and National Assembly candidates.
For Geingob, Venaani, Mukwiilongo and Mbai this will be their first try at the country’s presidency, while Hamutenya, Shixwameni and Maamberua will make their second attempt at being elected Head of State.
This will be third time that Mudge, who had earlier this year pledged support to Geingob, will be throwing his name into the hat.
It will be Ulenga’s fourth try at taking over the running of the State.
The 73-year-old Geingob was elected as Swapo’s presidential candidate at the party’s elective congress in 2012, the same year in which he ascended to portfolio of Prime Minister.
He was also the country’s first Prime Minister from 1990 to 2002, after which he was demoted to Minister of Regional and Local Government by former President Sam Nujoma, a position he refused and resigned from government.
He made a comeback in 2008, when President Hifikepunye Pohamba appointed him as Minister of Trade and Industry, a position he held until his rise to prime minister. A year before that, Geingob was elected as Swapo vice-president.
His rise to power in Swapo was rocked by internal turbulence which resulted in allegations of threats against his life.
The 75-year-old leader of the official opposition, RDP, Hamutenya was a long-time member of Swapo until 2007 when he formed his own party.
Hamutenya and others managed to ensure that RDP won eight seats in the National Assembly in the 2009 general election.
Despite internal strife in the RDP and talk of some of his trusted generals trying to unseat him, Hamutenya remains popular in the party and retained his position at an elective convention late last year.
He was a Swapo member of Cabinet from independence to 2004.
At 37 Venaani is the youngest of this year’s presidential candidates and a former MP on the DTA ticket. He became candidate after being endorsed by the party following his victory over former party leader Katuutire Kaura last year.
He became the youngest Namibian MP yet when he was sworn into the National Assembly in 2003, and the previous year he was elected DTA secretary-general.
At the age of 18 was elected as the youngest member of the DTA Central Committee.
Following his election to party president last year, he was faced with conflicts and confrontation from his predecessor and former mentor Kaura.
Ulenga, 62, also hails from Swapo where he served as both minister and as an ambassador. When that party changed the constitution to give former President Nujoma a third term, Ulenga and others formed the CoD in 1999.
His first presidential candidacy on a CoD ticket was as the leader of the official opposition. Although the party no longer enjoys that status, he has remained popular in the party and is still in the driver’s seat.
However, some of his fellow founding members of the CoD left him following party infighting, leading to some forming the APP and others becoming politically inactive. Currently, Ulenga is the only MP for the CoD.
A former student activist, Shixwameni, 48, formed the APP after breaking away from the CoD along with 21 other members in 2007.
He was elected the CoD’s chief whip in the National Assembly in 2000 and managed to make a mark for the APP by winning one seat in the House.
Before the CoD, Shixwameni was a Swapo Youth League leader from 1987 to 1999 and a Swapo Central Committee member from 1992 to 1997.
Swanu’s Maamberua, 57, is an accountant by profession and also worked for the State as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and was elected Swanu president in 2007.
Under Maamberua the party managed to get its first National Assembly seat in the 2009 general election, a seat which he occupies.
He is also serving as the chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Accounts.
The 62-year-old Mudge resigned from the National Assembly in 2011 after winning a seat in the 2009 general election. He had been the RP’s only representative in that House after breaking away from the DTA in 2003.
He is a former Khomas regional councillor.
Earlier this year Mudge announced that he would not stand for the presidential election this year and urged all RP members and supporters to vote for Swapo’s Geingob.
However, this week, he changed his mind and announced his intention to challenge Geingob as presidential candidate next month.
Mbai, 64, took over the reins of Nudo following the death of party leader Kuaima Riruako in June this year. At the time he was the party’s vice-president and in terms of the party constitution he has to complete Riruako’s term.
Mbai replaced Mburumba Kerina in the National Assembly following Kerina's falling out with the party over the use of government funds and before that he was the regional councillor for Okakarara.
There had been talk that Mbai would not contest the presidential election and was allegedly considering throwing his weight behind Geingob, but this was refuted by him and the party.
Mukwiilongo, 42, was part of Swapo until he formed the NEFF in the middle of this year after resigning from his former political home.
The party is styled along the lines of controversial South African politician’s Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
Mukwiilongo, a businessman, and his commissars have been called jokers by Swapo but he says the party plans to transform the economy by nationalising the country’s resources.

The Namibian Sun

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