Swapo, defiant councillors reach compromise

Home National Swapo, defiant councillors reach compromise

Albertina Nakale and Toivo Ndjebela

WINDHOEK – Swapo Secretary-General Sophia Shaningwa yesterday said decisions to recall party councillors at Rundu and Okahandja – which were reversed this week after a marathon party meeting – were taken collectively by the party leadership and not arbitrary by her, as is widely asserted.

As the party’s chief administrator, one of her routine duties is to ensure collective party decisions are implemented to the letter, hence her recent actions, she told New Era yesterday.

Swapo this week reversed actions implemented by Shaningwa to recall party councillors on the Rundu Town Council, who defied party directives to retain the status quo on how councillors are deployed at the town.
Retaining the status quo would have meant that the party retains Verna Sinimbo as mayor, but Swapo councillors nominated and voted Isaak Kandingu as mayor instead.

Toini Hausiku, who, together with other councillors, defied orders of the party for which her husband, Marco Hausiku, is Deputy Secretary-General, replaced Ralph Ihemba as the town’s deputy mayor.

Shaningwa, who said she makes decisions with her fellow top-four leaders in the party as well as the politburo, then recalled the defiant Rundu councillors last week and gave names of who should replace them, using the existing party list for Rundu Town Council candidates.

But after lawyers representing the recalled councillors threatened to sue the party in the High Court, Swapo moved swiftly to seek audience with the aggrieved councillors in order to map the way forward.
The marathon politburo meeting in Windhoek to which the defiant Swapo councillors of Okahandja were invited too, and chaired by party president Dr Hage Geingob, ended in a decision to, at least in the interim, allow the defiant councillors to retain the positions into which they recently elected each others.

In Rundu’s case, it means Kandingu and Hausiku must remain mayor and deputy mayor, while Sinimbo and Ihemba would serve as ordinary council members.

At Okahandja, where the party had ordered that Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou be removed as mayor, the meeting resolved, also in the interim, that council preserve the status that saw the defiant former footballer being sworn in as mayor last week, contrary to the party directive.   

Since these development surfaced, Shaningwa in particular has faced vilification and condemnation for what some described as dictatorial tendencies of imposing councillors into positions, contrary to how councils themselves voted in midyear elections held in November last year.

Yesterday, Shaningwa spoke at length about how decisions were arrived at collectively, and explained that she was tasked to implement the resolutions of the party’s top leadership.

“My letters to the two town councils were a result of a politburo meeting of 30 January 2019, where the leadership decided that change was needed at Okahandja, while Rundu needed to retain the status quo,” she told New Era upon enquiry. Shaningwa, who said her “backbone” remained intact despite the wave of criticism targeted at her, explained that recommendations regarding the deployment of party councillors at Okahandja, Oshakati – where councillors initially defied the party directive – and Rundu originated from Urban and Rural Development Minister Peya Mushelenga.

“Peya as the line minister is tasked to implement the party manifesto at local authority level. He assesses the performance of party local authority councillors and advise the party on whether councillors, based on performance, must be moved or retained in their positions.”

“This is exactly what happened regarding the three towns. The minister felt that change was needed at Oshakati and Okahandja and the party went with this advice. He had no issues at Rundu and advised that the status quo be retained at that town,” Swapo’s second female Secretary-General in history said.

“The minister has regular contact with councils, so he is in a better position to advice the party where change, if at all, is needed. Based on this advice, the party’s leadership collectively agreed to go with the minister’s advice and I, as secretary-general, am then tasked to issue the directives.”
Shaningwa confirmed yesterday that party councillors at Khorixas have also defied party directives on how they should be deployed.

The ruling party is allegedly unhappy that the town’s mayor was nominated by the opposition.
A statement by Swapo Secretary for Information and Mobilisation Hilma Nicanor said the party has ordered councillors at Rundu and Okahandja to ensure that they continue to render uninterrupted services to the residents of the two towns. 
The meeting was also attended by other politburo members including party Vice-President Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, former Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba and Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, the country’s Prime Minister. Nicanor said the politburo unanimously resolved to delegate senior party leaders to go and engage the party structures and party councillors at the two towns, in order to find a lasting solution.

“The political bureau reiterates that Swapo Party, as an organisation that fought a glorious struggle to establish democracy in Namibia, prides ourselves as the ultimate defender of the rights and freedoms of all Namibians, members of Swapo Party included. Therefore, we have the natural capabilities within the party at any level of our leadership to reconcile any differences amicably within the party structures,” she maintained.