The battle for survival at the bolshie Windhoek municipal council has intensified after the Independent Patriots for Change councillors threatened to interdict a special meeting.
Scheduled for today, the meeting aims to deliberate on a motion of no confidence in the management committee (MC).
The IPC controls the MC, with four of the five members sitting on the powerful decision-making structure.
At the time of going to print, there was no indication that the city would concede to the IPC’s demands.
These developments follow an ordinary council meeting on Wednesday evening, where Windhoek mayor Sade Gawanas said the vote of no confidence motion in the MC by Affirmative Repositioning (AR) councillor Ilse Keister would be discussed today, following its tabling in chambers.
She gave councillors 72 hours to prepare for the showdown that will determine the MC’s fate.
The motion simply seeks to collapse the IPC-dominated MC. Keister argues that the municipal council, with an IPC-controlled MC, is run by an external and unelected third force.
She further asserts that the MC is grossly incompetent.
A new council, independent from external forces, must be elected a week after the motion’s tabling, she added.
However, in a last-ditch effort yesterday, the four IPC councillors, through their lawyer Sylvia Kahengombe from Kahengombe Law Chambers, demanded that the meeting be halted.
They are MC chairperson Ndeshihafela Larandja, Jürgen Hecht, Otillie Uukule and Ben Araeb.
According to them, the meeting was hatched from a wrong footing, and places them in a disadvantageous position without any possible recourse.
The lawyer goes on to state that MC members cannot be lumped together.
“We advise that Rule 19 (1) of the Standing Rules runs contrary to the provisions of the Local Authorities Act, 23 of 1992, more particularly section 23 (c) of the Act, which does not provide for the lumping of persons together, and only allows for the introduction of a motion against individual members of the management committee,” Kahengombe said.
Keister’s motion is misguided, the lawyer continued.
After the deadline had lapsed yesterday without a repost from the city, Kahengombe said “we have not received any response from them, so our position stands. We are going to court.”
Today’s envisaged special council meeting is furthermore not in compliance with the 72-hour requirement as needed by section 14 (c) Local Authorities Act, she added.
If the motion of no confidence succeeds, it will fly in the face of a fair trial, as contemplated in Article 18 of the Constitution.
“Standing Rule 19 (4) contemplates that our clients must be given an opportunity to make representation to council on the motion of no confidence in the management committee. In this instance, we advise that such representation must be an informed one,” they stated.
They threatened to approach the High Court on an urgent basis, should Gawanas proceed with the meeting.
“We hereby demand that you provide us with a firm written undertaking on or before 12h00 noon on 11 August 2020 that you will not proceed with your unlawful special meeting on 12 August 2022,” Kahengombe wrote.
At the time of going to print, Gawanas was not reachable on her cell phone.
When acting Windhoek CEO O’Brien Hekandjo read out the motion on Wednesday evening, the mood in the council chamber went from jovial to sombre.
It became evident that politics of survival was in full swing.
As Hekandjo read out the motion, those accused by Keister of gross incompetence looked on in shock.
Keister wants a new MC to be elected to restore confidence for the city’s residents and employees.
Also seemingly unimpressed on the night was the city’s deputy mayor, Joseph Uapingene.
He wanted to understand whether the motion was fully motivated, and in compliance with relevant rules and laws.
In the opposing corner was former mayor, the AR’s Job Amupanda, who insisted that after the motion was read out, the aim is not to satisfy any member of the council.
Amupanda said councillors will have a chance to present their arguments and counter-arguments today.
If the motion of no confidence succeeds to dislodge the MC, a new MC will be elected at the next council meeting before the end of August 2022.
From outsiders’ perspective, Windhoek, once Africa’s cleanest city and a mecca of hope and development, has now been reduced to a hive of infighting and political bickering, in the hands of the opposition.
The governing coalition’s failure to find common ground has left pundits scratching their heads.
They opine that apart from successfully pushing the ruling Swapo to the periphery of decision-making, nothing else unites the opposition.
To date, the coalition remains without a solid plan to deal with the city’s most pressing challenges, including housing, crime, and providing basic amenities to Windhoek’s sprawling shanty towns.
Pundits recently weighed in on the performance of the Windhoek municipality, following the mooted coalition that could see Swapo, AR, the Popular Democratic Movement and Landless People’s Movement (LPM) join forces to unseat the current coalition in December.
Windhoek is run by the LPM, IPC and the National Democratic Unity Organisation with seven seats, while the remaining seats are occupied by Swapo (five), AR (2), and the PDM has a single seat.
In earlier interviews, analysts bemoaned the coalition’s inability to get anything done.
Political analyst Rui Tyitende said: “Now, there is a clash of personalities and not a clash of ideas. It is bickering between leaders who are leading this coalition, and not necessarily policies.”
When asked to give an assessment of the state of Windhoek’s affairs, researcher and executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research Graham Hopwood said: “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, Phanuel Kaapama, said the Windhoek coalition is Exhibit A of how a coalition could turn out at national level.
“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 reasoned.