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Home / Muinjangue’s trials and tribulations... Nudo leader exits with head held high

Muinjangue’s trials and tribulations... Nudo leader exits with head held high

2024-05-15  Correspondent

Muinjangue’s trials and tribulations... Nudo leader exits with head held high

With one foot already out of the door, Namibia’s first-ever female presidential candidate bows out with a strong message.

Utjiua Muinjangue’s experience over the past five years at the helm of the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) has been a mixed bag of the good,
bad  and ugly, if revelations made during a tell-it-all interview with this publication are anything to go by. While it is widely agreed that women are just as deserving as men when it comes to taking up leadership roles, challenges, including gender bias and sexist attitudes, remain in Namibia’s patriarchal society.

Muinjangue, the first female to be elected as the president of a political party, attests to a rude awakening: that in Namibia, female politicians are on their own. She said she was judged more harshly compared to her male counterparts, and that her leadership competency was questioned at every turn.

“I wanted to challenge the strong masculinity in the Ovaherero community, which forms 90% of Nudo supporters. I see politics as a game, and the curiosity of how it feels to challenge men was another contributing factor,” Muinjangue said.


Politics 101

Today, Muinjangue stands as a towering figure in Namibian politics for her unwavering commitment to democracy, gender equality and socio-economic development.

Fathered by a politician, liberation struggle icon and one of Swanu’s founders Tjeripo Ngaringombe, Muinjangue’s journey into politics is marked by resilience and a relentless pursuit of progress.

She won the Nudo presidential race in 2019 and the 2020 retun party election, a contest she describes as “traditional masculinity contestation crowded with patriarchal intimidation.”

Things only got worse for Muinjangue when she accepted an appointment by late president Hage Geingob to serve as deputy health minister.

“My challenges started in 2020 when I took over the dual roles, but they date back to 2019 when we had our first congress. It was disruptive, the outcome was challenged, and people took us to court. They won the case and ruled in favour of the congress to do an election re-run, and again, the majority voted me to lead the party,” she recalls.

She said being the first female president would not put her on the local map, but on regional and international maps.

“It is an achievement, I should say. It’s something that one should be proud of because not many people think that women are
ready for leadership positions. It’s important
for us to also break that belief,” she said.

Having been there and done that as the first female president of a political party and female presidential candidate at the national polls, it now appears Muinjangue shattered glass ceilings, paving the way for countless women to contest for power. Currently, at least four females have indicated their intention to contest for the highest office in the land on 27 November.



Chronicling her journey, Muinjangue described her tenure as Nudo president and health deputy minister as “bumpy but productive.”

“It’s not easy to lead in a community where people still must get used to a woman leading. Especially if you consider the formation of our political party and our Herero culture in general, a man is perceived to be a leader, and all Nudo former presidents were male and traditional leaders,” the politician asserted.

“Being appointed as deputy minister of health and social services was also not impressive to some members of the Swapo Party, and that makes you believe that yes, people are doing this simply because you are a woman,” she said.

Prior to entering the political space, Muinjangue worked as a social worker at Katutura Intermediate Hospital before moving to the University of Namibia (Unam) as a social worker in the Office of the Dean of Students.

In the same year, she became a lecturer in Unam’s Social Work Department, a role she relinquished in August 2019.


Unqualified audits 

Presiding over Nudo’s affairs over the past five years has been productive, she said, adding that the organisation has grown in leaps and bounds under her stewardship.

She further said the party has recorded an increase in the number of regional and local authority councillors, with some serving on the management level, such as the deputy mayor of Windhoek. What is more, accountability remains a thorn in the flesh of most political parties.

Over the past five years, political parties represented in Parliament have received a cumulative N$592 million from the Treasury, based on the seats they have in the country’s bicameral parliament system.

What is concerning for the Electoral Commission of Namibia is that it has zero powers to keep parties in check.

As such, most parties spent the millions at a whim, including on nice-to-have items such as purchasing vehicles for leaders and their spouses; dishing out loans; paying leaders double salaries; and, in some instances,
paying politicians whose roles have been reduced to sitting at home since being ejected from the National Assembly about two years ago.

Some parties are also using taxpayer funds to reward their politicians for party work, a direct contravention of the Electoral Act of 2014, which directs how funding received from the State purse may be used.

Queried on how her party used the over N$5 million it received from the Treasury over the past four years, Muinjangue said: “The party has been getting N$600 000 quarterly, which means it’s N$200 000 per month. We have staff members that we pay monthly. We have running expenses and operational expenses. Also, when I took over, the party did not even have a car—not a single car with mileage to back up—and today the party has a car.”

The party has been receiving unqualified audit reports since she took over as president.

“The funding that we receive from the government, is of course proportional depending on the number of seats that you have and the membership fees that we are getting from our members, So, I would say that financially, we were also not able to go out as we really wanted to,” she said.



Appointed at the genesis of the Covid-19 pandemic, Muinjangue joined the health ministry in March 2020, just a week after Namibia detected its first case.

“Together with the minister [Dr Kalumbi Shangula], we had to support our team and find ways to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic. I recall that during the first months when Walvis Bay was the hotspot and the epicentre of the Covid-19 campaign, the late president Hage Geingob took the decision that five deputy ministers should be deployed on the ground and provide the necessary leadership.

“I was not only there in the capacity of a deputy minister but also the president of Nudo. I am proud to say that when the country faced the Covid-19 crisis, two political parties that worked very hard to mitigate and handle it were my party  Nudo, and Swapo,” Muinjangue boasted. The social worker is alive to her critics.

“Of course, there were critics who thought I was serving in a corrupt Swapo government, but this is not the Swapo government; it’s our government. Your government is my government. Nudo, being part of government has provided us with the opportunity to
provide alternative views, and contribute to serving the Namibian people,” she said.

Like the proverbial great dancer who knows when to leave the stage, she is convinced it is time to go.

She has since indicated her decision not to partake in the Nudo presidential race.

According to her, there are some within Nudo and government circles who want her to continue.

“As a leader, I should also set that example and follow in the footsteps of great politicians, such as the late Nelson Mandela, who served his time and said, ‘yes, as a democrat, I’m giving a chance to others to lead’. So, that’s it. I will serve as a member of the party. I can still provide guidance and advice where needed,” she said.



As a departing shot, Muinjangue hopes to see the government finalise the genocide talks.

“The joint declaration that was brought to Parliament indicates that 80% of those who were consulted were not happy. If you are not happy with the process, you cannot be happy with the product of the process,” she said.

It is her fervent view that the government should consider the calls for fresh talks, and ensure the inclusion of communities whose ancestors were massacred by German colonial forces and had their property seized more than a century ago.


2024-05-15  Correspondent

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