After a long and bitter standoff that lasted over eight months, three political parties and an association headed by Windhoek mayor Job Amupanda finally reached a compromise and yesterday signed on the dotted line to formalise their political marriage. The engagement between the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC), the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Nudo and the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement nearly collapsed and has been rocked by infighting among members serving on the 15-member city council.
But sanity was restored yesterday when visibly relieved leaders of the coalition decided to put their differences aside and chart a new path forward.
“As PDM, we have great confidence in the partnership agreement that we have penned.
This agreement will be able to move the activities and affairs of the City of Windhoek in the spirit of coalition, give and take, in a spirt of collective leadership that we will have to provide,” PDM leader McHenry Venaani said after signing the agreement yesterday.
He said signing the agreement took them a long time “unnecessarily” due to differences in political views and cultures from the various players.
However, over the last month, they have decided that the differences are not more important than the job at hand.
On his part, Amupanda said following the signed agreement, he is confident that the leadership will be able to provide direction and stabilise the situation in the city.
“To all residents of the city, you must know the progressive forces, the parties and the association that are providing leadership to the City of Windhoek, are up to the task. Whoever has been all over the place saying that it is not possible for them to work together, today is a demonstration that those were just prophecies of doom,” he stated.
He added that they will continue working together, and the signing of the agreement is the support system that has been missing for a very long time.
IPC leader Dr Panduleni Itula, on his part, promised his party’s full support and determination towards Amupanda’s mayorship to maintain the leadership that is collectively going to manage the City of Windhoek.
“Honourable Kauandenge, honourable Venaani, your worship, let us march forward as a team. Let us make sure that at the centre of our consideration is the best interest of the people of this city,” Itula urged.
“If we leave everything outside and march together as a united force, we will be able to deliver the services to our people that our people need, to restore the dignity in their living quarters, and to make sure that our people are provided with shelter, not just shelter but decent shelter, a shelter they can call home.”
Analysts are cautiously optimistic about the coalition’s marriage.
Political expert Ndumba Kamwanyah said having the agreement does not necessarily mean that all is well, or that all is going to work well with the coalition.
“What they need to do is to find a way to work with and/or through their differences and positions to the benefit of the people they are serving,” he opined, adding that the sooner the better for them if the coalition is to survive.
“Right now, the agreement is needed to serve as a common roadmap for them because they stand for different ideologies, issues and positions. Without such a written agreement, it was going to be difficult for them to operate in sync.”
Graham Hopwood, executive director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said “this agreement should have been signed at the start of the year, and could have helped avoid some confusion regarding the running of the city council. Even though the agreement is late, it does set the stage for a more stable period of local governance in Windhoek. The key issue that remains is whether the four political groupings can agree and implement a policy programme that will make living conditions better for the majority in the capital.”
Political commentator Gerson Sindano believes opposition parties in Namibia are too politically fragmented to proffer any functional challenge to the existing political establishment, let alone the City of Windhoek council.
“Often, political parties are characterised by infighting and bickering - and for opposition parties and organisations to form coalition forces is a welcome move for the residents of Windhoek, who desperately need the issue of land resolved quickly. The political marriage of these councillors will be tested by the very document they have signed up for. It seems that their political union is centred around power dynamics: who becomes the mayor, the deputy mayor and the chairperson of the council? If the City of Windhoek council’s sole purpose is to deliver services to the people, why should it matter for these top three positions to be rotated? On another note, it will be interesting to see how the current mayor Amupanda handles the clause of confidentiality, as far as his social media is concerned.”
The agreement, which was signed by Itula, Venaani, Amupanda and Nudo’s Josef Kauandenge, allows, amongst others, for a rotation of the top portfolios, including mayor, deputy mayor and chairperson of the management committee, on the city council.
The agreement will also see the formation of a Joint Leaders Committee of Progressive Forces (JLCC) that shall sit quarterly, as the need arises, to attend to pertinent issues of the JLCC.
“The parties shall each appoint two authorised persons to represent each party/association on a joint committee of the JLCC, which shall be accountable to the joint leaders committee,” reads part of the agreement.
Also, the agreement will see to it that the party that serves as mayor shall also serve as the secretariat of the Progressive Forces Committee.
The agreement, which came into force yesterday and runs until the next local authority election, will only be dissolved or expire through a written notice by each party, like given an inability by the parties to resolve a fundamental dispute.
Together… IPC leader Dr Panduleni Itula, PDM leader McHenry Venaani, Nudo secretary general Josef Kauandenge and AR leader Job Amupanda at the signing of the agreement yesterday.
Photo: Kuzeeko Tjitemisa