The outcome of the regional council and local authority elections has ushered in a new era of coalition politics.
As such, political parties that are not ideologically suited could end up collaborating to govern in some local authorities.
Political parties have been engaging each other behind the scenes about the possibility of forming partnerships in order to control key towns. Towns such as Walvis Bay and Swakopmund where the opposition hold the majority local authority seats, Independent Patriots for Change councillors have emerged as mayors as well as chairpersons of the powerful management committees.
The attention will turn to Windhoek today where the IPC, the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) and the Affirmative Repositioning movement are hoping to wrestle strategic positions from the ruling
Swapo. Swapo, which had won 12 of the 15 seats on the municipal council, lost seven seats to the IPC, which secured four, while AR and LPM, each received two seats.
The PDM and Nudo retained their single seats, respectively. All the six organisations represented on the city council have been discussing coalition options ahead of this afternoon’s special council meeting. A senior lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust) Admire Mare yesterday warned opposition parties against sidelining the ruling party councillors in the management of local authorities.
“Sidelining Swapo will be counter-productive for the opposition as Swapo still controls central government which is important for financial and political resources,” he said. Though Swapo remains in control of most local authorities, the party lost control of over 30 towns and village councils. The ruling party also lost control of economic hubs such as Windhoek, Oranjemund, Lüderitz, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. Political commentator and director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said he hopes elected councillors will agree on working arrangements so that they can proceed with the tasks facing their councils.
“These don’t necessarily have to be formal coalitions that have national implications. In the past the few councils that were not under Swapo control just found ways of working together and putting their communities’ interests first,” he said. According to Hopwood, councils that have no single party in overall control need to work out how they can make sure they deliver for their communities.
“If they continue with political bickering, they won’t be able to agree on workable plans for their communities or even make decisions,” he said. Ultimately, he said, political parties will have to find ways of working together and end the current political grandstanding which will only harm the communities they are supposed to serve. Mare said when there is ideological convergence between various coalition partners, it has been shown to work and foster local democracy. He said the advantage of forming a coalition is that there is co-creation of progressive programmes, also checks, and balances between coalition partners.
“The disadvantage is that infighting between partners can scuttle service delivery,” he said, adding that it is too early to conclude but in the short term, it can work to the advantage of citizens who are likely to reap better in terms of service delivery.
Early this week, President Hage Geingob who doubles as Swapo president threatened to deal with Swapo members suggesting they will financially starve regional councils and local authorities controlled by the opposition. During yesterday’s final Cabinet meeting for the year, Geingob said government has heard the voices of the people. “Ultimately, democracy and the people of Namibia are the winners. As the highest decision-making institution at the apex of government, we have to be adequately prepared for the journey ahead; to deliver in all earnest improved services to all Namibians,” he said.