The echoes of Swapo’s landmark seventh elective congress, initially scheduled for 25 to 27 November, was yesterday still reverberating in the empty halls and corridors of the Safari Hotel.
The recounting of ballot papers for the ruling party’s controversial central committee (CC) election has not been resolved by the time of going to print late yesterday, as the party’s top leadership was locked in a meeting for most of yesterday.
The on-again off-again decision to recount came after secretary general Sophia Shaningwa directed the party’s elective congress presiding officer Joshua Kaumbi and his team to recount all the CC ballots yesterday morning.
In a letter sent to Kaumbi on Tuesday night, Shaningwa said the recounting process must be conducted in the presence of the police and the Swapo counting observers and therefore a full report must also be submitted to the leadership through her office no later than today.
Shaningwa’s decision was, however, put on hold pending a decision from the top leadership.
Kaumbi told New Era yesterday that the process stopped as the top four newly elected leaders were in a meeting to decide the way forward.
The lawyer cut a forlorn figure yesterday at the Safari Hotel pacing up and down and smoking feverishly.
A decision to recount the votes came after several calls to nullify the elections, which were marred with anomalies, of which Kaumbi and his electoral team settled on a vote recount, a decision whose legality is now being questioned within the party. In an interview with NBC, Kaumbi, who was the Swapo congress elections chief, admitted mistakes were made in the party’s central committee election results.
It was those mistakes that seemingly thrown the outcome of the CC into disarray after it emerged that a totally wrong list of successful female candidates was read out during the closing ceremony of the congress.
The list has seen some of the party’s heavyweights including ministers, deputy ministers, and several governors not being elected to the powerful party organ.
Names such as Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Cabinet minister Anna Nghipondoka, deputy ministers Verna Sinimbo, Jennelly Matundu, Kornelia Shilunga, Hilma Nikanor and parliamentarians Lucia Witbooi and Evelyn !Nawases-Taeyele all appeared to have missed the cut.
Kaumbi yesterday tried to explain what went wrong. He is of the opinion that the verification would have served the same purpose, as they would have verified where they have gone wrong.
“It was not signed off by me and by the auditor. And therefore, for me to assist even those whose names were announced, it will be good if we can recount and verify,” Kaumbi noted in his interview with NBC.
“Is it because of the computer system that we have used, or is it because of the manual system that we didn’t use? So it was a genuine mistake. It is a genuine understanding that the recount will assist all the parties involved,” he further explained.
It seemed Kaumbi’s team merely read out the female candidates in alphabetical order and not based on votes garnered during the election.
He, however, maintained that the whole election process was free and fair, but without these steps, these results will not be free and fair.
“I am seriously certain that due to non-compliance at that stage of certain issues, it would be in the best interest of everybody... the party to make a decision,” he retaliated.
In the same interview, Kaumbi also stated that they never got instructions from SG to recount, as they have initially taken it upon themselves to “verify”.
“Yesterday (Tuesday) morning, there was a statement from us that we are going to verify and that was the first step but unfortunately, we could not be allowed inside because the SG said she got word that we want to recount and we cannot do that and we stopped because we can only recount if there is a petition, so at the time when we wanted to verify and there was a misunderstanding, there was no petition. It is just the word that went out that we wanted to recount,” he further explained.
On Tuesday night, Kaumbi said he was informed by the SG of the petition to recount of which he supported due to various factors such as fatigue, time constraints, and the fact that they were not verified by the auditors.
“Also, a recount will assist the election committee in trying to establish what happened. Without that recount, I am unable to understand what happened,” he noted.
Meanwhile, some members have also challenged the legality of Shaningwa’s instruction, saying only the CC may order a recount and that there must be a formal request by the aggrieved party.
Local political analyst and lawyer Natji Tjirera is of the opinion that the matter might be taken into the hands of the law due to issues of legalities.
“The integrity and legality are being questioned here because it is understood that some people made it to the list at the expense of others and those who feel left out will find it unfair,” he said.
On the issue of recounting, Tjirera said that “the problem is that anything that the party does should be declared by the CC which is the highest decision-making body before the politburo but not the SG. But with the non-existent CC as the congress has already been dissolved, that has brought a lot of confusion.
“As a governing party, how do you do such an elementary error at such a big event of the party? If the votes are recounted, how are they going to reassure party members and the public that what they have recounted is indeed authentic?” he asked rhetorically.
Hamunyera Hambyuka, who was appointed to the committee to oversee the recount late yesterday told New Era that nothing has happened so far and confirmed that the top leadership were stuck in a meeting.
“There’s totally nothing to report on. Nothing has happened. We are waiting for the leadership.”
He was not the only one waiting and not knowing what to do.
Swapo Party Elders’ Council secretary Mukwaita Shanyengana yesterday said he does not know exactly what transpired, adding the ruling party’s election head, Kaumbi is the right person to explain what transpired with the CC elections.
“Those who were in charge should explain. Kaumbi should explain what happened. When we voted, we were not expecting those people to make mistakes because CC elections are supposed to be easier to handle than the general elections. I don’t have more details what happened so I can’t really be in a correct position to comment,” Shanyengana reacted.
This was the same answer Swapo Party Women’s Council secretary Fransina Kahungu had when approached for comment.
“I was not informed of the developments so I cannot comment,” she said.
However, former Swapo Party Youth League secretary of labour and CC member Willem Amutenya was adamant that the proper procedures should be followed.
“As CC elect, I have not seen a petition questioning my elections to date. Swapo party is a movement that is guided by its legal instruments, even on a matter in question. Our rules and procedures are clear on how a petition on congress should be dealt with. However, as a youth leader of Swapo, elected on the youth representation highly condemn every unconstitutional act. This just-ended Swapo congress just like any other congresses determines the future of our party, and that of our country. Therefore, we should be cautious with our actions and decisions in order to continue growing a united Swapo towards the socioeconomic growth of our nation. Young people of Swapo should be worried by its future amidst such incidents, thus we should hold hands to safeguard the future of Swapo and that of our children and grandchildren,” he said.