Over 80 percent of the Swapo Party contestants in the upcoming regional and local authority elections are male, the party’s secretary general Nangolo Mbumba confirmed early this week.
Talking to New Era on Monday, Mbumba said the party is not “disobeying or disrespecting” its congress decision of having a 50/50 representation in its structures as all the Swapo branches were requested to submit an equal number of male and female candidates for regional council and local authority positions.
However, during the primary elections most of the candidates who emerged victorious were male, said Mbumba. “With the elections we are obeying the directive. But we must encourage our citizens also to vote for merit or capabilities. We must vote not only for men but for women as well so that at all levels it will be close to 50/50,” said Mbumba, who added that the imbalances would mainly be at the regional council level.
“Unless we change the (current) formula and come up with another formula this will be the situation,” cautioned Mbumba.
He said that because Swapo and the national elections are democratic it could be the case that men could emerge as the majority candidates and incumbents.
Namibia is signatory to the SADC protocol on gender and development whose objectives are to provide for the empowerment of women, to eliminate discrimination and to achieve gender equality and equity through the development and implementation of gender responsive legislation, policies and programmes.
Swapo made history by being the only party to adopt the 50/50 representation in 2013 and subsequently implemented that recommendation last year.
The Women’s Action for Development (WAD) executive director, Salatiel Shinedima, who was contacted for comment said: “WAD is very disappointed by this [the majority of candidates being men]. We wonder if the party (Swapo) actually puts emphasis on the 50/50 representation during the primaries.”
He stressed that more women are needed in political and leadership positions especially at the grass roots.
“Women are in a better position to address societal issues at grass-roots level because they are known to be caring and there is no better position to do that than at regional council level,” said Shinedima. WAD last year called for the amendment of the Electoral Act for 50/50 representation to become a national policy. Shinedima said this would create more opportunities for women at leadership and political levels.
Making 50/50 representation a must at national level will contribute to the development of the country, added Shinedima. He cited cultural and institutional challenges as some of the reasons the advancement of women in politics is being hampered. “It’s a long way to go but we can get there,” said Shinedima.
The director of elections at the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), Prof Paul Isaak, said he was “strongly in favour of more women in leadership for them to demonstrate their capabilities”. As a result, he said, stakeholders should in future look at mechanisms to amend the Regional Council Act to fit in more women and in the long run achieve gender equality.
“A similar pattern used in the Local Authorities Act can be applied to the Regional Council Act to cater for more women,” said Isaak.
Despite being given a directive to give New Era the required information by the ECN director, one Zenia Klaazen of the ECN was non-compliant with the directive and came up with all sorts of excuses.