By Toivo Ndjebela
WINDHOEK – President-elect Hage Geingob says he is not under any obligation to strictly replicate the ruling party Swapo’s 50/50 gender balance policy when appointing people to structures of government.
Geingob this week appointed five men and three women to parliament, contrary to expectations, especially among gender activists and enthusiasts, that he would name a gender balanced team of eight nominees.
Hardap Governor Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, Heather Sibungo and Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana were nominated to join parliament, having failed to make it onto the Swapo list of 77 elected MPs.
Jerry Ekandjo, Albert Kawana, Obeth Kandjoze, Bernard Haufiku and Zephania Kameeta complete the list of eight.
Swapo has made it a party constitutional provision that all its key structures reflect gender balance, following an extraordinary congress called in 2013 to specifically amend the party’s constitution to allow more women into its set-up.
But Geingob this week said the gender balance policy is for the party and not necessarily the state.
“The 50/50 issue is a party matter,” he said.
“I’m not bound by the letter of it, but I’m bound to its spirit. What I’m dealing with here is a state, not the party.”
Geingob’s stance could dispel any expectations that government’s top-four positions – the president, vice-president, prime minister and deputy prime minister – will reflect the ‘zebra’ style adopted by the party as was initially thought.
Many Swapo leaders are said to have covertly expressed their dissatisfaction with the party’s new gender policy, which is currently blamed for the exclusion of most male party members from the upcoming parliament.
Women have often found themselves on the periphery of mainstream leadership positions, but the ruling party is now trying to rectify that.
After the November 2014 elections, 39 men were elected to parliament on the Swapo ticket, while 38 women also made it.
But Monday’s nomination of eight members by Geingob means the number of men on the Swapo ticket has now increased to 44, while women are now 41.
The SADC Protocol on Gender and Development requires member countries’ parliaments to have 50/50 gender representation in their parliaments by this year.
The opposition benches will particularly have a more skewed gender ratio, with DTA’s Elma Dienda and Jennifer van der Heever being the only females among 19 opposition MPs.