Swapo to decide opposition’s fate

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Windhoek

The ruling Swapo Party, which now controls all 14 regional councils, is to decide which, if any, opposition parties will be chosen to serve in the 42-member National Council.

Swapo trounced its opponents in Friday’s regional council and local authority elections – thereby gaining control of the process of selecting councillors to serve in the National Council.

Altogether the opposition won a paltry eight of the country’s 121 constituencies but the ruling party yesterday hinted it might avail some seats in the National Council to the opposition, or even the independent candidate Katjanaa Kaurivi, who won as councillor for Otjombinde Constituency.

The hint came from Swapo secretary-general Nangolo Mbumba, who said “the ruling party stands ready to work with the opposition.”
Each region is supposed to send three councillors to serve in the National Council.

Swapo councillors could choose to select those three regional representatives from among themselves and ignore the opposition, if they so wish.
As if this were not enough, the opposition only won control of three local authorities, while Swapo scooped 54.
Out of the 14 regional councils, the opposition only has a presence in five regions, namely Erongo, Otjozondjupa, Kunene, Hardap and Omaheke.

This means councillors from the remaining nine regions will automatically come from the Swapo fold.
This also means Swapo is already guaranteed 27 members in the National Council because opposition parties are not represented in nine regions.

Although Mbumba indicated that Swapo stands ready to work with the opposition parties, he said the ruling party should not be castigated should the National Council only be comprised of Swapo members.
“Democracy is exercised when people vote and we cannot do something different from what people voted for. Where we can accommodate them we will, but in some regions the entire council is composed of Swapo members,” he said.
Mbumba said a formula for proper representation needs to be worked out in conjunction with the parties that also have elected members.

“We work with members from the opposition in the National Assembly, so it should not be an issue in the National Council,” said Mbumba.
Outgoing chairperson of the National Council Asser Kapere said the ruling party does not need the opposition to stay on its toes in the National Council.

“Who kept us on our toes all these years? We do not need them [opposition] to do that because we know why we are there,” he said.

As for those claiming that a National Council composed only of Swapo members is bad for democracy, Kapere said: “The opposition should ask themselves why they performed the way they did.”
Kapere said should a council be composed entirely of Swapo members, those in the opposition can still approach councillors at a regional level to take up issues in the National Council.

UDF president Apius Auchab on Saturday pleaded with the ruling party to include some councillors from opposition parties “for the sake of democracy”.
“If the entire National Council is composed of Swapo members then we can kiss democracy goodbye because they will just be relaxed since no one will keep them on their toes,” he said.

Women fall by the wayside

The just-ended election was described as a major backslider for gender equity in Namibia, both in terms of women’s participation as candidates in the election and in terms of the final outcome.

Only 20 of the 121 regional councillors for the next five years are women. This, according to Election Watch Namibia, is a far cry from the 50 percent target set in Namibia’s National Gender Policy, the National Gender Plan of Action, the SADC Gender Protocol, and several other national policies or regional/international instruments which Namibia has ratified.

Two regional councils – Omaheke and Zambezi – have no female councillors.
Seven regional councils each have only one woman on the council. These are Hardap, //Karas, Kavango East, Kavango West, Kunene, Ohangwena and Omusati, observed Election Watch Namibia.
Erongo, Oshana and Oshikoto regional councils each have two women on their councils.

Khomas and Otjozondjupa are the most representative for women, with women occupying four of the 10 constituency seats in Khomas Region, and three of the seven seats in Otjozondjupa.

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