In this tell-all-interview, former Windhoek mayor Fransina Kahungu shares her low lights and highlights of the past ten years as councillor as well as her political journey.
NE: Can you briefly tell us about your political background?
FK: By setting the scene, I express gratitude to the New Era newspaper for the opportunity granted to me. Furthermore, readers are kindly informed that the environment where I grew up influenced my interest in politics.
It is worth mentioning that, until to date, the Baobab tree in front of my late father’s house is still used as a gathering point for Swapo Party activities in my village, Okapanda in the Outapi constituency, Omusati region. Back in 1989, I actively took part in the Namibia National Students Organisation (Nanso)’s activities.
After graduating from the students’ politics, on the 11 November 2006, I was elected as a coordinator for Swapo Party Women’s Council (SPWC) for Kakurukaze Mungunda Branch in Windhoek West, Khomas region - a position I served until 2012.
My leadership capacity was observed by many Swapo Party members in the Khomas region. As a result, during November 2010, I was elected through the Swapo Party to be a representative (councillor) of Swapo Party at the Windhoek local authority.
This means that I served Windhoek Municipality Council as an ordinary councillor, deputy mayor as well as mayor.
During the 6th SPWC ordinary congress held on the 7-11 December 2011 at Tamariskia Town Hall in Swakopmund, Erongo region, I was elected as a Central Committee member.
Earlier in 2012, the SPWC Central Committee members entrusted me to serve as a member of the National Executive Committee and Secretariat where I serve as Assistant Secretary for Finance and Project Management.
By that period, the needed skills have been acquired, consequently, in December 2016 at Keetmanshoop, //Kharas region, I was elected Deputy Secretary for SPWC, the current position. My main focus is to implement the aims and objectives of this very important Swapo Party‘s wing.
NE: How do you juggle your many roles of a mother, Swapo Party Women’s Council, Deputy Secretary as well as serving as city councillor?
FK: Well, you forgot to mention that I am also a wife and a student. So, I have many roles to play, which all require a substantial amount of time from me. Allow me to highlight that my roles are interlinked.
All of them are aimed at developing, nurturing, teaching and improving the other person’s life. How I succeed in these is by maintaining a balance between all my responsibilities through time management, self-discipline and an understanding family.
Time management is important because I have a limited amount of time, same as everyone else. However, I strive to set a daily schedule, which accommodates each one of my activities. And importantly, to maintain my schedule, I keep a diary in which I write down all my activities for the day.
Self-discipline is also an important element when it comes to ensuring that I serve all my roles well. I make sure that I do not take on more than I can handle, and when I have a lot of tasks at hand, I make sure that I allocate them sufficient time and energy. Besides, I do not compromise on my activities; I make sure that all the critical tasks are concluded before I take on any more work.
As I mentioned, I am a wife, a mother, a student and a co-worker. In such a situation, I have to set up support structures in each one of my roles. These have been very important in ensuring that nothing important is neglected. The executive secretary in my office contributed immensely to my achievements.
She served as my mother, mentor, counsellor and social worker to many vulnerable members of the society who visited the office of mayor. May God bless meme Martha for the selflessness spirit. One particular support structure I would like to mention and thank is my husband; he has been a source of strength, wisdom and encouragement.
NE: You are now 50. Do you still have other political ambitions?
FK: The Bible says, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much”. In addition to that, I would like to say that it is very dangerous to put too much emphasis on the future as this might result in you neglecting the present.
Therefore, I believe it will be detrimental and injustice to speak of future political ambitions and positions when I have important tasks at hand to complete. The beauty of it is that, currently, my main responsibilities and roles are political, Thus, I pledge to work to the best of my ability while I hold that honour, as these are my current focus.
Having said that, I do hereby declare that my motto is service delivery and production, and I continue to work very hard in my current political roles, more opportunities will come. When they arrive, then I will be able to assess them and decide if they are ideal for me at the time. Namibia, here I am! Send me.
NE: What were the highlights of your tenure as mayor?
FK: One of the big highlights is relocating the office of the mayor to Nathaniel Maxuilili Community Centre in Babylon in Tobias Hainyeko constituency. This was important so that I can be closer to the residents, especially those that needed basic amenities most. Whilst my office was in Babylon, I met many people with different stories, needs and aspirations, and I was able to, directly and indirectly, assist them. I also learned that being a leader means being with people listening to and understanding them. That was indeed a remarkable experience, which I hold dearly.
My tenure has observed the implementation of Windhoek Municipality’s Developments and Upgrading Policy of 2019. The registration of all the informal structures in the informal settlements and the issuance of certificates of occupation of municipal land are results of such policy.
During the same period, community participation was key to developmental issues. Council managed to convince more than 300 members of the community to assist during the registration process. Some community members volunteered themselves to fix ablution facilities while some remove waste from the toilets.
An infrastructure that will remind me of my tenure is the trading site located next to Okuryangava clinic. At this juncture, allow me to salute councillor Matride Ukeva for being instrumental in the process of removing unused material from Okahandja Park bus terminal and relocate them to Okuryangava. The purpose was to provide a formal trading site to traders who are mostly women.
The assistance received from 20 community members is hereby acknowledged with thanks. Thanks should also be given to student interns from various vocational training centres that assisted few officials from Windhoek municipality.
During the construction of the trading sites, I learnt the power of togetherness and unity. Yes, it was the coronavirus period, yet we moved on with determination. That was the first time after independence, Windhoek municipality directly and fully took part in the provision of housing.
I, thus express my gratitude to honourable Erastus Uutoni for being a motivator for all during the processes. I will fail in my duty if I did not mention the provision of electricity to households or high mast light in constituencies such as Khomasdal, Moses //Garoëb, Samora Machel, Tobias Hainyeko and Windhoek Rural.
Fast and prompt maintenance of communal taps and toilets whenever broken is the best part I will remember my officials for the good cooperation and understanding.
NE: What are the lowlights of the last ten years?
FK: Growth of informal settlements coupled with lack of basic amenities.
NE: Do you think the City of Windhoek has a clear land release strategy in place to accelerate the provision of residential land delivery?
FK: Yes it does, what needs to be done is implementation, implementation and implementation.
NE: Your tenure as mayor was also rocked by infighting among councillors and top management. What role did you play as mayor to resolve some of these standoffs?
FK: As mayor, I facilitated clear the air engagements between the council and top management. I also reminded the council and top management of their responsibilities. So that none infringes on the other. This was important, as there is a likelihood that either council or top management would step outside their mandate, and this often causes hostility.
Further, I constantly reminded the council and top management that we are servants of the residents of the city of Windhoek, and that our actions should always be in the interest of the residents. Besides, I practised fairness, where I treated all cadres and officials equally. To sum up, my concentration was mostly on service delivery to the extent that I ignored completely small personal issues.
NE: You seem to be quite close to the new mayor of Windhoek, Job Shipululo Amupanda. What is your message to him?
FK: First of all, let me once again congratulate His Worship Job Shipululo Amupanda for being elected as mayor of Windhoek Municipality Council. Chairperson of the council must stick to his name Shipululo to be a servant of others and be transparent.
A community activist we expect to be a master of the affairs of the community and principal head of Windhoek municipality.
Equally, he must be patient and persistent, as some issues take longer to solve. Nonetheless, I urge him to provide solid inspirational leadership that will ensure that the city is sustainable and prosperous.
Of course, being an experienced leader, he shall have a mechanism in place to assess whether we are on track in terms of implementing the council’s plans.
This means that regular monitoring, reporting and evaluation of organisational performance are keys to our activities.
I wish him well as the mayor and I look forward to working with him in his capacity as chairperson of Municipal Council of Windhoek.
NE: All Swapo Party City of Windhoek councillors have been reduced to ordinary members of the council. Do you think this will affect the implementation of programmes that you championed as mayor?
FK: I do not think so, because the programmes that I was championing are for the betterment of the Windhoek residents, and the programmes are worthy of continuation. It is my hope and desire that the programmes continue to receive the attention, resources and effort required in ensuring their success.
NE: Are the Swapo Party councillors ready to work with the opposition?
FK: That is a pre-requisite for the council to function adequately as one. As mayor, Amupanda mentioned in his mayoral speech, each councillor will be given responsibilities.
And we, Swapo Party councillors, are ready to be allocated responsibilities and ensure the progression and development of our city.
Ideally, we should not be called Swapo Party councillors but rather councillors, as we represent all the residents of our city.
NE: Anything else you want to add?
FK: May the grace, love and peace of God be upon us all!