By Kuvee Kangueehi
The dispute over the election of a governor for the Caprivi Region reached a stalemate on Monday despite high-level intervention by senior Swapo leaders from Windhoek.
The region has been without a governor for almost two months after the local Swapo regional executive defied a party order to retain the previous governor, Bernard Sibalatani.
The regional executive elected Leonard Mwilima in his place.
On Monday, the two parties – Swapo’s top leadership and the Swapo regional executive – reportedly failed to reach a consensus.
At the meeting at Katima Mulilo on Monday morning, the regional executive firmly stood by their decision to elect Mwilima as the new governor and refused to obey a directive from the Swapo Party that they re-elect Sibalatani.
At the meeting, which was attended by the Secretary General of the Swapo Party, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, Deputy Secretary General Nangolo Mbumba, Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development, John Pandeni, chairperson of national leaders assigned to the Caprivi Region, Joel Kaapanda, Deputy Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Rafael Dinyando and Swapo Party Youth League Central Committee member Sakkie Shangula, the regional councillors stressed that they want Mwilima as governor.
A regional councillor who spoke on condition of anonymity said despite the threat from the party’s top leadership that the party might take disciplinary action against them, the majority of the regional executive committee supported Mwilima as their governor.
The councillor said they informed the delegation from Windhoek that the decision to elect Mwilima was a mandate from the four constituencies in the Caprivi Region and not a personal decision by the councillors.
The councillor said the tribal issue was also discussed. The councillors said they could not understand why they are now being labelled tribalists when they elected Sibalatani as governor in 2004, who is a Subia.
“Why don’t they tell us why we should not elect Mwilima? Is it because he is Mafwe? And is that not tribalism?”
The councillor added that the Swapo Party could take disciplinary action if they want to. He said as far as they are concerned, they have not done anything illegal because the Regional Council Act of 1992 makes provision for regional councillors to elect a chairperson of the Regional Committee, who shall be the Governor of the Regional Council for a period of three years.
The councillor said the Swapo Party top leadership is desperate to block Mwilima from becoming the governor and even sent some SPYL members to persuade Mwilima to decline the governorship.
The SPYL allegedly advised Mwilima that he is young and that he should allow Sibalatani to be governor as the SPYL will support him in future.
The region is now in limbo as Mwilima has not started work as governor despite him being elected and sworn in as per the Regional Council Act.
The Swapo Party Regional Coordinator in the Caprivi Region, Ignatius Nkunga, refused to comment on the matter, while Ithana could not be reached for comment.
By late yesterday afternoon, Ithana was still in the Caprivi Region consulting traditional leaders.
Meanwhile, Reagan Malumo reports from the Caprivi Region that during the closed-door meeting with the Swapo top leadership, councillors refused to bow to pressure and even threatened to resign from the party if Mwilima was forced to resign.
A scheduled press conference was cancelled at the last minute after the talks collapsed. When quizzed about the meeting Ithana retorted, “Not now please, I am still around until tomorrow,” reports Malumo from the Caprivi Region.