For newly sworn-in member of parliament Gotthard Kandume, the classic tale of rags to riches is a reality, which he endured after sleeping in the back seat of a sedan over the past five years.
Kandume is one of the 96 legislators sworn-in on 20 March 2020 for a term stretching over the next five years. He represents his Christian Democratic Voice (CDV) party which only obtained one seat in the National Assembly after garnering about 6 000 votes in the 2019 general elections.
In 2014, his party only received 2 400 votes and did not receive a single seat in that house, however, this did not deter Kandume who remained in Windhoek to prepare for the 2019 bid. The soft-spoken politician told this reporter that the sedan was the only accommodation he found
in Windhoek and that most of his winning strategies were devised in the ‘comfort’ of the old white Toyota Corolla parked at his friend’s house in Damara 7 location in Katutura.
The 47-year-old Kandume hails from Kamanjab in the Kunene region and owns a house in Usakos, Erongo region where he stayed before joining politics 2013 after registering the party with the Electoral Commission of Namibia.
“I did not have money to travel up and down from Usakos to Windhoek to attend meetings and hence I had to find accommodation in the capital city,” said Kandume. “In Windhoek, I walked to town for meetings until I learned I could use the patient shuttle bus between Katutura hospital and the Windhoek Central Hospital for free. That became my means of transport from time to time.”
Kandume described his accommodation as bad but the thought that there are other people worse off comforted him when he had to battle mosquitos every night.
“Even though the windows of the car were broken and it rained sometimes, I thought of those sleeping under bridges and I was thankful that I had a roof over my head.”
Kandume had two pair of shoes, three pants, four shirts and two pairs of socks, which were passed on from friends during this period. He explained that he used bathing soap as deodorant, salt as toothpaste and picked old shaving blades from the streets in order to cut his beard. “It wasn’t an easy life for me and it is from there that I travelled to the North to campaign and returned to my room and slept with one blanket. “Good Samaritans helped with food and toiletries. My friend who gave me accommodation also helped me with food from time to time.”
Kandume founded the CDV to fight for the plight of Christians, churches and the re-introduction of Christian values and norms in the Namibian society.
“My main reason for starting the CDV was to become the voice of Christian churches, especially the Pentecostal churches which for long have been ignored and disregarded. The government has taken a stance against these churches labelling them as Oshiveva, mainline churches and so on while admiring, favouring and promoting the so-called traditional churches only.” According to him, Pentecostal churches are being denied land, harassed and their instruments confiscated at times for apparently making noise during their services. “It is for this reason that I founded the CDV and continued to fight this fight until we got a seat in the National Assembly.”
He continued: “After 2014, I remained in my corolla because of that vision of having a voice for the churches in parliament.
“From 2016 to 2019, I campaigned heavily in the Northern parts of the country. I helped seven churches that side to get land and some were reopened after my intervention.”
It is this vision, Kandume noted, that motivated him to remain sleeping in the car “to continue fighting this good fight of faith”.
He explained that his party’s priority in the National Assembly is to fight for the re-introduction of Bible studies in schools, land for churches and the abolishing of taxes on churches. Kandume, who now stays in Okahandja, added that the CDV leadership is in discussions to restructure the organisation and to put up new structures all over the country ahead of this year’s regional and local authority elections.
“We are busy identifying cadres who are willing and able to work for the party but above all to work for the vision of the party. The party will be transformed to meet the challenges of the times and will plan a congress when the time is right.
“We will work hard to ensure that we increase our presence in the National Assembly from a single seat to four seats after the 2024 general elections.”