The aftermath of the regional council and local authority elections towards the end of last year ushered in a new era of coalition politics after a number of opposition and assocation formations ended up dominating various local and regional councils.
Albeit informally, the City of Windhoek coalition was announced to much fanfare, paving the way for the election of Affirmative Repositioning leader Job Amupanda as mayor, deputised by Clemenncia Hanases, while former city executive Fillemon Hambuda was installed into the powerful management committee chairperson role.
Now a little over seven months into the first term of the current council, the knives are out as a major split looms in the Windhoek coalition – if events of the past week are anything to go by. The recent fallout was triggered by shack demolitions in the Tobias Hainyeko constitutency last week, leading to an apology from certain councillors, including the mayor.
The Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) entered the fray, disowned the coalition and temporarily suspended their Windhoek City councillors (for a week) from all council activities after the leadership of the party castigated its councillors and said they “erred in their judgement to have admitted responsibility” alongside the apology offered by Amupanda over the demolitions.
A war of words later ensued on social media and the mainstream media, a further indication that all is not well, as irreconcilable differences among councillors and their political bosses are brought to the fore. Some coalition partners have accused others of being obstructive and pushing their own agenda.
It later also emerged there was actually no fully signed coalition agreement among the “progressive forces”. Coalitions are not easy. As such, political parties that are not ideologically suited end up collaborating to govern in some local authorities. The ultimate onus, though, is on political parties and associations to find ways of working together and put their communities first.
For a country battling serious challenges of service delivery, especially at local authority and regional government level, one would have thought the new wave of leadership will channel all their energy in addressing pertinent issues such as the urban land delivery and improving the lives of residents in underdeveloped areas. Instead, the politics of personality and opportunistic party interests have been allowed to prevail over developmental affairs.
The “progressive forces” have been presented with a great opportunity to turn around the fortunes in Windhoek, where thousands continue to live in deplorable conditions, while housing remains out of reach for majority in the middle class.
The sorry state of affairs at the city should perhaps also be blamed on the party list system, which has seen local authority councillors being more loyal to party bosses, instead of voters whom they claim to represent. The current system does not bring about people-centred or participatory local governance as party bosses – not local authority councillors – dictate the agenda.
This has profound implications for local governance as councillors have no broad developmental mandate to show for. The current setup breeds disunity and chaos, especially in councils where there is no outright majority.