Political analysts have said the failure of the City of Windhoek governing coalition does not only affect residents negatively but also crushes any hope for cooperation on a national level by opposition parties.
Pundits painted a bleak picture of affairs at the city, saying the capital is now a fertile ground for personality clashes as opposed to ideas and service delivery.
In the end, those who elected the coalition partners into power suffer while they squabble over petty politics.
To date, the coalition remains without a solid plan to deal with the city’s most pressing challenges, including housing, crime and provide basic amenities to Windhoek’s sprawling shanty towns.
Pundits weighed in on the performance of Windhoek municipality, following the mooted coalition that could see Swapo, the Affirmative Reposition (AR) movement, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) and Landless People’s Movement (LPM) join forces to unseat the current coalition in December.
This theory was further buttressed by a motion of no confidence in the management committee.
It was moved by AR’s Ilse Keister on Wednesday.
Windhoek is run by LPM, Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) and the National Democratic Unity Organisation (Nudo) with seven seats.
The remaining eight seats are occupied by Swapo (five), AR with two while the PDM has a single seat, making up the opposition.
Painting a gloomy image was political analyst Rui Tyitende, saying while opposition political parties running local authorities and regional councils face inherent challenges, Windhoek is exhibit A of failure as far as coalition politics is concerned.
According to him, opposition parties were firm in their commitment to topple Swapo from the city.
That goal was achieved.
Today, there seems little to unite them beyond their common enemy.
“Now there is a clash of personalities and not a clash of ideas. It is bickering between leaders that are leading this coalition and not necessarily policies,” Tyitende said.
He, however, was quick to point to the fact that coalition politics is a challenge, globally.
Chiefly, individual political parties making up a coalition have different constituencies, interests and ideologies, he said.
Adding his voice to the discourse, researcher and executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said the squabbles within Windhoek’s coalition partners was expected.
“It was always going to be the case. That is the art of coalition politics. What is happening now with the infights is not good for the city and its residents,” Hopwood said.
He added: “There are not enough compromises being made by the coalition partners. They must put their petty politics aside and focus on service delivery.”
Another analyst Fanuel Kaapama said the fact that Windhoek is in the hands of the opposition in itself is a milestone.
“By implication, the first citizen of Namibia is living in a political space that the ruling party is not controlling.”
“If the opposition coalition works hard, they can use the success at ‘this local governance level to showcase in 2024 that we have taken control of the City of Windhoek and we have achieved so much. So give us the mandate to run the whole of Namibia,’” Kaapama said.
As things stand, however, the opposition-led coalition is in the news for all the wrong reasons.
“In that atmosphere where there is unnecessary tensions and squabbles, it diverts attention away from those areas that opposition parties controlling the city should have concentrated on to make a meaningful impact,” he said.
In Kaapama’s eyes, the two successive coalitions have little to show in their two years at the helm of the capital.
“What can they point out that represents a significant improvement from what the opposition parties inherited from Swapo when they took office in December 2020?” he questioned.
Whether or not a coalition can work at a national level is highly dependent on what transpires at the city, he continued.
For now, the coalition at a national level remains a pipedream.
“There is no clear vision for a coalition for the 2024 elections,” he said.
While they agree that not much has been done by the opposition apart from what was inherited, with seats out of 15, Swapo cannot hide behind the “I am not in charge’’ card.
“How Swapo performs at a national level at another municipality is a different ball game. There are five Swapo councillors but there is very little that we are seeing of them,” Kaapama noted.
He stressed nothing stops Swapo councillors from coming up with a motion geared at service delivery and getting a buy-in from the other councillors in the chamber.
However, Swapo’s chief administrator Sophia Shaningwa had other views.
The ruling party is demanding the speedy delivery of affordable land, housing, toilets, lights and other basic services the now warring opposition-led Windhoek municipal council promised residents back in 2020.
“Is the City of Windhoek under the leadership of Swapo?” Shaningwa asked, before dropping the buck at the coalition partners and opposition parties.
According to her, Windhoek residents are not interested in verbosity.
“The coalition is in the majority. The whole buck stops with them. They must deliver as they promised. I don’t have the right to call them to order. All we are looking for as residents is service delivery,” she pressed.
Insiders have it that a process to form a new coalition and topple the IPC is in motion. It is headed by the ruling Swapo party and AR.
The marriage of convenience will see Swapo, AR, PDM, Nudo and the LPM team up to form a new coalition in December, New Era understands.
When this was put to Shaningwa, she replied: “I was never informed. Perhaps they are still on their way. I have not been informed of those types of things.”
Referee and player
Inherent challenges include the powers vested in the minister responsible for urban and rural development.
At present, the allocation of land – which all formations promised the electorate in 2020 – is subject to the approval of the minister.
When it comes to the budgetary allocations, local authorities, including Windhoek, are at the mercy of the minister.
“They are being hamstrung by the central government. The minister reports to the Swapo president in a city run by the opposition.
“Do you think it is in the best interest of Swapo if the coalition succeeds in Windhoek or LPM in the south? It will be political suicide,” Tyitende said.
He continued: “It is time for opposition parties in parliament to push for the amendment of the Regional Councils Act and Local Authorities Act to give more autonomy to those institutions.”