Windhoek Rural Constituency is the most vast constituency in terms of spatial and geographic boundaries in the Khomas Region. The constituency has been under control of the opposition until 2004 when Fredrick Arie became its first Swapo councillor – wresting power from Albert Tsuoub of Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), then known as DTA. Vitalio Angula sat down with Connie Engelbrecht, the Swapo secretary for information and mobilisation in Windhoek Rural Constituency about the party’s electoral prospects in the constituency.
Vitalio Angula (VA): What has Swapo achieved in your constituency since the last election?
Connie Engelbrecht (CE): The Swapo Party, which I represent and speak on behalf of, has made good on its 2014 campaign promises and went even further and beyond by implementing the food bank initiative through the Harambee Prosperity Plan and increased social grants for all Namibian senior citizens at the grassroot level. These tangible outputs speak directly to the needs of our electorate and they have trust and confidence in us to keep delivering on their behalf. We work around the clock with our people, stretching from Seeis in the East to Solitaire in the West. From Rehoboth to the South and Okapuka in the North. We work with them on a daily basis. They know we are the representatives of Swapo and that our party delivers results so I am self-assured that they will come out in numbers and vote for the party they can trust.
VA: Sloganeering aside, what challenges do you foresee regarding Swapo’s dominance at constituency level within your district?
CE: As a party we are informed of the imminent threat of our prodigal son Bernadus Swaartbooi and his new political formation. You will also through research be informed that we claimed this constituency in 2004 from the DTA, which is now PDM. Given those dynamics and the newspaper and TV reports, I guess you are suggesting we see them as threats. But in all honesty, the DTA’s traditional support base, which is derived from the Odeendaal Plan, has been eroded and Swartbooi has already been neutralised because of his arrogance and divisive posturing which is not welcome in an independent Namibia.
VA: PDM and LPM seem to have some support [in your area]. How will Swapo counter the opposition’s possible offensive?
CE: I will not deny that they do have minimal support, but politics and election is about numbers and they do not have the broad-based support needed to overthrow Swapo at constituency and district level. The Presidential and National Assembly elections are bound to prove that later this year. I envisage a situation where Swapo might increase in votes because these parties have provoked some of our members. But the fact that they are going head to head with our mighty party effectively means they have split their votes in half, and we will retain our constituency.
VA: A lot has been said about the spatial vastness of Windhoek Rural constituency. What challenge does this present to your work as secretary for information and mobilisation?
CE: As of 2012, the municipal boundaries of Windhoek were extended. This demarcation encroached on the boundaries of other regions. As of today Khomas Region and Windhoek Rural Constituency stretche 60km in all four cardinal directions- to the West as far as Farm Solitaire on the border of the Erongo Region; to the North just after Okapuka lodge; to the Eastern side up to Seeis just past the Hosea Kutako airport and to the South 10km before Rehoboth. In terms of mobilisation this is a logistical challenge because we have to travel vast distances in order to address the needs of our communities. We only have one constituency office at Groot Aub which is our headquarters and center for deployment.
VA: What are you constituents’ demographics and how are you addressing their concerns as Swapo?
CE: I will outline my personal and political experience in serving my people. This land (area) we are speaking of has been historically stolen from its original inhabitants - the Ovaherero and Nama ethnic groups. I am a Namibian first, but I am also a proud Nama woman. On farm Ondekeremba, which is on the way to the [Hosea Kutako] airport, there are graves of my ancestors that I cannot visit in the name of respecting private property under the clause of no-trespassing. Some white farmers have evicted families who have lived on that land using flimsy excuses such as poaching. These families have been left in corridors or grazing their cattle along the gravel and tarred roads. These are the vulnerable people who have been targeted by the DTA and LPM with false promises of land restitution.
VA: What has your party done to address the concerns of the evicted farm workers?
CE: Swapo as the governing party in Namibia is in the process of resettling families who have been left stranded in corridors permanently. Our development plans include giving adequate attention to rural development to residents in our constituency. I am not at liberty to divulge the exact details, but we are working together with all relevant stakeholders to find a lasting solution to this predicament which is caused by some white farmers who do not want to bring their part in the collective effort of nation building.
VA: Regarding campaigns, LPM and PDM are on the ground. Swapo is not. Can you explain why?
CE: Swapo has been working fulltime in the community every single day. We are the local authority in the constituency serving our electorate on a daily basis. Yes, we have not yet started our campaign which is only set to be launched in August while we are currently completing renewal of mandate at party level but our people know their people and we are their people because Swapo is the people and the people are Swapo.
VA: Regarding renewal of mandate, how is that going given the divisions within the ruling party at the moment.
CE: I cannot comment on Swapo Party as a whole but can comment at district level where I am serving, and we are united as ever before. Yes, we do have some minor reports of factionalism, which are a result of internal democratic processes - which is an overall known happening during elections in any political organisation. Temporary fever will subside after internal elections. Reports of division are just hyped up versions by those who are jostling for positions and are positioning themselves for future elections. We are and remain united.
VA: Any final thoughts
CE: Internally, our greatest challenge is inner party unity because of the temporary election fever and re-grouping for a common purpose after renewal of mandate as is the tradition of Swapo Party to always unite afterwards. We need to cultivate a spirit of moving on from previous internal elections and rally behind our party and its elected candidates as a collective. Our threat is not LPM and DTA [PDM] as you would suggest because they campaign on a tribal philosophy. Swapo campaigns in the spirit of one Namibia, one nation.