• July 17th, 2019
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Swapo gender-based “facilitated democracy” discriminatory towards women


An in-depth statistical analysis of the voting outcome of the Swapo Party congress of 2017 brings forth questions regarding the party’s commitment towards its principles of democracy and social justice, and the rights of members of the party to elect and to be elected to the party’s organs such as the central committee. 

The subject of this article is limited to the election of members to the Swapo central committee, the highest decision-making body of the party in between the congresses. 

The final vote count for members of the party’s central committee as announced by the presiding officer of the 2017 congress shows how the women in the party were hard at work canvassing for votes while the men took internal mobilisation for granted, hoping that they will be accommodated through the zebra-style system. 

This is a gender equality quota system, which assembles the final list according to gender (a woman must be followed by a male until all 56 positions are filled). Only 56 places were available. The other places on the central committee were reserved for the permanent members, namely four ex-officio members; the top four (4), secretaries of the wings and affiliate organisations  (4), regional coordinators (14) and the party presidents’ nominees (6). All ex-officio and presidential nominees have no voting rights in the central committee.

According to the Swapo Party constitution; the rights of the individual in the party are subject to their membership in the party and are not gender specific. Swapo’s political program expresses itself on the issue of gender awareness but not on the principles of gender advancement or equality, which has facilitated the entry of men into positions they would not have occupied if the democratic principles of fairness, equality and equity were adhered to.

The Swapo Party code of conduct’s principle on elected leadership implies that in order for a member to be voted into a position of authority is subject to a member getting the most number of votes for that position in the relevant election. 
Had this principle been adhered to, the ratio of women to men in the elected members of the central committee would have been divergent from how it turned out to be. Had it not been for the zebra style, women would have been in a majority and able to influence policy direction at party and national level to ensure women empowerment in the broadest and truest sense of the word empowerment.

At 279 votes Penda Ya Ndakolo is the male Swapo member with the least number of votes who made it onto the central committee. Ten women who had more votes than him but were not able to make it onto the central committee due to gender discrimination inherent in the zebra style, which wheelchairs men into positions, include Mirjam Shiitula (280); Fransina Kahungu (280); Pendukeni Ithana (280); Tuyeimo Hamukwaya (299) Kaino David (311); Nona Gorases (314); Jenelly Matundu (318); Esme Isaak (318) and Adelheid Damases (320). Women who did not make it to the central committee at the expense of their male counterparts who had lesser votes may want to revisit the 50/50 zebra style policy, which the party has adopted and move for its removal as an unfortunate relic of misinformed ‘facilitated democracy’.
This will ensure their rightful place in parliament subsequent to the successful conclusion of the National Assembly and presidential elections slated for November 2019.  

Drawing inference from the congress of November 2017 and the fact that internal dynamics within the party have remained unchanged, one can safely assume that the voting patterns  within Swapo will follow the same trajectory with women garnering a disproportionally higher number of votes than their male counterparts, meaning that women with higher voter tally will have to make room for men in order to fulfil the gender parity requirement.

Article 10 (2) of the Namibian constitution provides that no persons may be discriminated against on the grounds of sex. As a legal entity, Swapo and its members’ rights are protected by Article 5, dealing with the fundamental rights and freedoms which are enforceable by the courts. 

Although there are many instances where there are contradictions between the Swapo constitution and its supplementary governance instruments namely ‘the code of conduct’ and the ‘rules and procedures for election of Party office bearers and party representatives at legislatives and government levels’, its contradictions with the republican constitution are starkly a violation of fundamental rights.  The SWAPO Party is founded on the principles of democracy where the voice of the majority counts. The 50/50 zebra-style is a violation of that 
principle. 

* Vitalio Angula is a socio-political commentator and independent columnist. This article was compiled with the guidance of Dr. Panduleni Itula. Former lecturer on Constitutional matters at the Swapo Party School.

Editor’s comment: Is it your submission that the zebra-style principle only disadvantages women, and that your analysis did not discover any scenarios where men with more votes lost out because they had to make way for women onto the central committee? 


New Era Reporter
2019-02-15 11:05:22 5 months ago

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