Swapo Cold War Intensifies

A VERBAL clash between two senior Swapo members of parliament in the National Assembly on Wednesday has brought to the fore what another party leader termed a ‘cold war’ currently raging in the ruling party.

Swapo backbencher Kazenambo Kazenambo and deputy defence minister Petrus Iilonga engaged in a war of words on Wednesday over media reports this week that struggle veteran Andimba Toivo ya Toivo had decided to sell his memoirs to the government.

Sources within Swapo said the clash between the two is part of a wider battle for positions in the famous ‘Swapo pot’ (list of parliamentary candidates for the National Assembly) for the upcoming electoral college.

A battle line has allegedly been drawn between those who won at the 2012 congress, led by Swapo vice-president Hage Geingob, and those who lost through Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and Jerry Ekandjo. The losers have now allegedly regrouped as one block. Geingob is Swapo’s candidate for State President.

The clash between Kazenambo and Iilonga took place during the debate on the budget for the Ministry of Veterans’ Affairs.

Taking the floor, Kazenambo said he was disappointed at the way Ya Toivo was being portrayed in the media.

Iilonga interjected, saying that not all who served time at Robben Island prison wanted to sell rights to their life stories. He said he is not part of the group who want to sell.

Kazenambo shot back that there are people in parliament (a poorly camouflaged reference to Iilonga) trying to block the recognition of Ya Toivo’s contribution to the independence of Namibia.

Approached for comment about their clash, Iilonga yesterday told The Namibian that he was surprised by Kazenambo’s outburst.

“Ask him, he might know. I cannot speak on his behalf,” said Iilonga.

It’s not the first time that Iilonga has clashed with Kazenambo.

The two squared off last year at a Swapo central committee meeting to the point of nearly getting physical.

The deputy defence minister said those who have problems with him can go through the party structures to register their grievances and that there is always an opportunity to reconcile.

“Why not, we reconciled with the koevoet,” he said when asked whether he will reconcile with Kazenambo.

Kazenambo confirmed last year’s clash with Iilonga at the central committee meeting, telling The Namibian that he has observed Iilonga for some time.

He accused Iilonga of having a “dominating mind” with no respect for other people’s space and rights.

“He is not God nor a demigod,” Kazenambo said in the interview. “We have reached a point where we have to respect each other or physically fu%k each other up.”

Kazenambo, who reshuffled as youth minister last year, told The Namibian he was ready for a fist fight with Iilonga in the National Assembly this week, adding that the fact that Iilonga served on Robben Island does not make him superior.

“Some of us are trained militarily. He [Iilonga] is a bloody idiot. We will fu%k each other up,” he fumed during the interview.

Deputy Minister of Justice Tommy Nambahu told The Namibian that there was a need to objectively write history in order to acknowledge other unsung heroes. Nambahu also spoke about the deteriorating state of graves of heroes and lack of care at those sites.

Nambahu is one of those who feel more can be done to honour Ya Toivo. While not addressing allegations of discrimination in the party based on political ideologies, he said that Swapo politicians trained in the former socialist countries, including Cuba, have been discriminated against after independence, and even now.

“When we [who were in the Soviet Union] arrived here [government] people did not want to recognise that we were educated. By then we were naive, we thought it was the system,” he said.

Nambahu said some of their fellow Swapo members in government told them that they had been in the wrong country, when they applied for jobs.

“You pass an interview but don’t get the job because apparently there is no education there, only politics”.

A Swapo source said the battle of ideologies is rife in the party, with one saying that some of the members are being sidelined for criticising the party for pursuing what they term as liberal policies.

“There are those sidelining others,” said the source.

Both Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo have distanced themselves from the cliques and the alleged ‘cold war’.

“Don’t get me involved in these rotten stories. I don’t want to be part of these groups,” Iivula-Ithana told The Namibian yesterday. Ekandjo said he is not aware of groups and clashes. “There is no such thing in Swapo,” he claimed.

Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba yesterday suggested that Iilonga and Kazenambo should talk one-on-one to sort out their differences.

He said that he is in constant contact with Iivula-Ithana and Ekandjo and has not noticed any lobbying by them after the last congress.

Mbumba said if such lobbying is taking place, then people are using the names of Ekandjo and Iivula-Ithana without their permission. He also said anyone trying to sideline party members based on ideology is going against the rules of the party, which is about the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Mbumba said some people suspect that their phones are being tapped but there is no proof.

Information minister Joel Kaapanda earlier this week denied any tapping of phones after Kazenambo told the National Assembly that his phone was being tapped.

Source : The Namibian