By Tileni Mongudhi and Mathias Haufiku | 11 August 2020
SWAPO is in the process of taking disciplinary action against two members who challenged the outcome of the party’s 2017 congress, but analysts say this is contrary to the introspection indaba the party held recently.
Secretary general Sophia Shaningwa directed the party’s leadership in the Oshana region to institute a disciplinary inquiry into Mirjam Shituula and Selma Namboga.
This is seen as another ‘witch-hunt’ to victimise party members with different views to that of the leadership.
“The Swapo Party Oshana regional executive committee should initiate disciplinary action against Cde Shituula and Cde Namboga,” Shaningwa told Swapo’s regional coordinator for the Oshana region, Samuel Nelongo, in a letter dated 12 June 2020.
In the case, which was filed in the High Court in November 2018, Shituula and Namboga asked the court to declare the ruling party’s congress in November 2017 and the election of its leadership at the congress unlawful and unconstitutional, or invalid.
They now have to pay legal costs of close to N$750 000 after losing this court challenge last year.
According to Shaningwa, the move to discipline the pair was decided at the party’s central committee meeting held a week before.
“In view of the above, I am writing to direct you, comrade regional coordinator, to spearhead the process with the view to have the matter closed at the party level,” she commanded.
Outspoken Swapo Party Youth League leader, Sioni Iikela described the move to discipline the two as a “direct purge against people not aligned to the current leadership.”
He said it was clear from the onset that the party leadership, including president Hage Geingob, has been doing mere lip service to its members and has clearly failed to “walk the talk..”.
“Why are these two cadres being targeted? It is because they were not aligned to the Harambee leadership which is currently in power? There were others like Katrina Shimbuli who openly challenged the party in court and won. But they are not being targeted at all.
They continue their ‘hallelujah’ life in peace knowing they are taken care of,” he said.
Reffering to the act as a show of double standards, Iikela called on the party leadership to equally take strict action against “known looters and thieves in the party.”
“All these thieves in the central committee must be disciplined. We need to set an example of what we preach. We can’t be targeting only some individuals. These are my own words, put them in,” he noted.
Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah says disciplinary action against dissenting members of the ruling party is not new and the current action is contrary to the efforts of the introspection indaba the party held last month.
“They spent over 30 years fighting for a democratic dispensation, yet now they go to the extremes to deny members these very rights. Although the decision to discipline them was taken before the introspection summit, this approach of disciplining the two members will not give the party the introspection they wanted, and perhaps they must consider dropping the process,” he says.
According to Kamwanyah, Swapo ought to follow a more reconciliatory road if it wants to unite its members.
“The two ladies merely exercised their constitutional rights as members to approach the courts when aggrieved, surely they cannot be punished for that,” he says.
“Although Swapo is trying to put on a brave face and pretend the party is united, it is clear there are bigger issues plaguing the party.”
SOPHIA THE GATEKEEPER
Swapo’s primary leaders have been in a heated contest over the years, so much so that it has left the party limping towards the elections.
In most instances, party members have blamed the situation on directives from headquarters prescribing who should contest certain positions.
There has been consensus that the regions should be allowed to choose candidates without interference from the party’s top brass.
For the upcoming elections, Shaningwa has taken up the gatekeeping role for all aspiring candidates.
“Upon the election of candidates from the district conferences, their names together with their photos should be submitted to the Office of the Secretary General from the regional coordinator’s office,” she said in another letter dated 6 August 2020.
She indicated only members with membership cards older than five years are allowed to contest.
Shaningwa further stated that incumbent councillors will be automatic candidates in the district pot, unless they have indicated their unavailability.
A day after that, she instructed chairpersons of national leaders assigned to the regions to establish regional preparatory committees and sub-committees in preparation of the November elections.
“Make sure leaders at various levels are well informed in advance to engage the party’s rank and file at section, branch and district levels and to ensure that house-to-house mobilisation commences,” she said.
The 2020 Regional Council and Local Authority elections could be the toughest polls for Swapo since independence.
The biggest challengers to the party’s dominance are expected to be the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) and the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC).
Apart from the AR, the 2019 national polls saw the LPM and PDM reducing Swapo’s dominance and subsequently ensuring that Swapo’s two-third majority in parliament is dismantled.
Panduleni Itula, founder of the IPC, was instrumental in reducing president Hage Geingob’s popularity in the presidential polls from 87% in 2014 to 56% in 2019.