By Confidente Reporter
MINISTER of Sport, Youth and National Service, Jerry Ekandjo, who is widely tipped to challenge President Hage Geingob at this year’s party congress, ducked and dived this week, when asked about whether he is harbouring any Swapo presidential ambitions.
During an exclusive interview on Wednesday, Ekandjo, who is a Swapo Politburo and Central Committee member, said he was not thinking about the congress, as it was too early to do so.
When asked explicitly whether he was going to challenge Geingob for the party’s presidency, Ekandjo said, “I don’t even think about the congress. It’s still far. I am concerned with what is happening in my ministry. The congress is non-existent. I don’t even think about it.”
Ekandjo was speaking at his office on Wednesday, following a telephonic interview the previous day, where the veteran politician failed to give a straightforward answer during a 20-minute conversation, on whether he will challenge Geingob for the party presidency at the upcoming congress.
“For me it’s just like you are asking me whether I am going to plough my mahangu field or not… Your questions about this congress do not change anything. For the past 27 years I have been a part of this. Even if people talk, it’s normal,” Ekandjo said on the telephone on Tuesday.
“I have been in politics for the past 40 years and I have been attending congresses. I will think about the congress when it comes, I don’t even dream about it.”
He said his main concern at this stage was the retirement of his Sport, Youth and National Service Permanent Secretary, Alfred IIukena at the end of this month.
“We are hoping that the prime minister will appoint another good permanent secretary, like IIukena, who will take this ministry forward. I will only think about the congress when someone like you reminds me about it, but the moment you leave I will forget about it again.”
Ekandjo, who in 2012 challenged Geingob for the Swapo vice-presidency and lost, also claimed to have no political ambitions.
“Political ambitions are for those who enter politics, not for people like us. We are just here to build the country and democracy. We are like ants and bees,” he said.
When asked again whether he doesn’t want to be the next Swapo leader, as even ants and bees have leaders, Ekandjo said, “Maybe the Swapo secretary-general will remind us that there is a congress this year. The congress doesn’t count in my mind right now, whether I take part or not. The congress is there to reaffirm our faith in Swapo, and for us to encourage each other, and reaffirm our commitment to Swapo only. Elections do not matter.”
Ekandjo also dismissed speculation surrounding the many vehicle accidents involving his official drivers, maintaining that there was nothing sinister about the crashes.
In the most recent crash, Ekandjo’s driver died in a road accident outside Okahandja in the early hours of Monday.
Johannes Lusiano (44) died instantly in a head-on collision between Ekandjo’s government vehicle and a sedan.
The other driver also died on the spot, about 30km outside Okahandja on the Otjiwarongo road. Ekandjo was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
Ekandjo said on Thursday that since 2012 there had been five accidents involving his drivers, which have resulted in two fatalities.
“They are so many theories, but they are just mere speculation. There is nothing to it. Many people just phone and I tell them they are just accidents.”
He also told Confidente two of the accidents occurred when his assigned drivers took his official vehicle to attend to their private matters, without his consent.
“The first accident happened in 2012, when one of the front wheels dislodged from the car and the exhaust pipe caused the grass to catch fire, which resulted in the car burning. The second accident happened in 2013.
“I have a farm in eastern Okahandja. That day I sent my driver to pay my farmworkers, and one of the workers asked to be taken to Okahandja to do his shopping. On their way back the car overturned.
“My bodyguard died, and the driver and the farmworker were injured. In 2015, my driver dropped me off at home in Pioneers Park… and I had instructed him to pick me up the following morning, as I had a meeting at 9am to attend. At 2am I got a call from the police in Otavi, informing me that my driver had been involved in a car accident.
“I didn’t know that after he dropped me off, he went back to the office and took my official 4×4 vehicle and drove to Omuthiya, to drop cattle feed for his livestock. When the police called me, I even denied that it was my driver, because I thought that after he dropped me off, he went home and he never asked me for permission to use the car,” Ekandjo said.
“The other accident was last year. I have a small plot in Kavango, so I went there. When I got there I sent my driver to the North, to run some errands for me, and while he was on his way there, he was involved in a car accident, after one of the tyres burst.
“He was not injured, but my fourth car was written off. Again it was a 4×4.
“Then last week Friday, one of my drivers asked me for permission to go to Oshivelo, and he went. I am told that he had gone to attend to his livestock, which a neighbour had informed him was being sold by his employees. He had permission to go to the North, but never had permission to take my official vehicle, so as you see there is no conspiracy at all here,” Ekandjo said.
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