A little over three months ago, we castigated warring Windhoek local authority councillors over their endless infighting. We equally pleaded with the leadership to put aside their differences and channel energies to delivering services to frustrated residents of the capital.
At the time, the “progressive forces” running the city were embroiled in a vicious power struggle, which was worsened by a spate of illegal land grabs, forcing council to demolish unlawfully erected structures. This led to a massive standoff among councillors, as irreconcilable differences among politicians and their political bosses came to the fore. Some coalition partners at the time accused others of being obstructive and pushing their own agenda.
While mayor Job Amupanda had to apologise to homeowners whose shacks were demolished, the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) leadership disowned the coalition and temporarily suspended its councillors from all council-related activities. After serious deliberations, representatives of Nudo, the Affirmative Repositioning movement and the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) came to their senses and allowed for cooler heads to prevail, culminating in the signing of a coalition agreement. Fast forward to November and weeks before the city council convenes to elect new office-bearers, and the coalition is showing signs of renewed crumbling, with Amupanda and his PDM and Nudo coalition partners blaming IPC chief patriot Panduleni Itula for the mess they find themselves in. Instead of thrashing out coalition deals, the “progressive forces” are at each other’s throats, with Nudo, AR and PDM accusing Itula of going behind their backs to try and bring the Landless People’s Movement into the coalition.
Of course, these parties knew exactly what they were getting themselves into when they decided last December to end Swapo’s city council dominance. What many Namibians don’t realise is that coalitions are not easily enforceable. And while the opposition may have succeeded with their prime objective to sideline the ruling Swapo, it seems the centre cannot hold any longer. It is true that we live in an era of strange bedfellows as parties with different ideologies have to accommodate each other and agree to work together. Although there is now greater political pluralism more than ever, politicians should at all times demonstrate their loyalty in deed and in truth to the electorate whom they have made endless promises to during election campaigns.
We respect that various parties are willing to do business with each other and in different ways. At the end of the day, it is all about compromise and reaching common ground among coalition partners. Indeed, the political grandstanding helps no one. As much as the internal elections’ outcome may be disappointing, politics of personality and opportunistic party interests should not be allowed to stand in the way of developmental affairs. Those who find themselves on the losing side should embrace others and help chart a positive trajectory that places a huge premium on service delivery, and not one that encourages petty politicking. There is no doubt that the City of Windhoek’s council is the most sought-after in the land. Not only do councillors receive generous monthly “allowances”, the N$5.1 billion budget is not small money either. The battle for the soul and heart of the city council will heat up in the coming days. We are definitely in for a political treat, and it will be interesting to see which party will emerge to the top and which one will play kingmaker.