Eunice Ipinge trounced Petrina Haingura to win the emotionally-charged race for the position of secretary of the Swapo Party Women’s Council (SPWC), amidst claims of vote-rigging.
Attorney-General Sacky Shanghala declared Iipinge the winner of the secretary’s position, with Windhoek Deputy Mayor Fransina Kahungu emerging as deputy secretary of the wing.
Ipinge won with 249 votes against Haingura’s 223 and 81 for Sylvia Kandanga-Sheetekela.
Kahungu won the deputy secretary position with 318 votes over 130 for Bernadette Jagger and 105 for Katrina Liswani.
The congress has been variously described as “disorganised” and “the worst they have ever attended” by some participants, but party members kept close tabs on the outcome of the elective congress, as it has a major implications for the Swapo congress next year.
The rigging claims started surfacing after it took about 17 hours to count a mere 557 votes.
The results were initially set to be announced by 08h00 on Saturday, but were eventually only announced at about 23h00 that night.
The delay sent tongues wagging, with questions of what delayed the relatively easy job of counting.
The delegates, tired of waiting for the results, started to sing and dance, asking why the officials were taking so long to announce the results, while the doors of the hall remained locked as the officials finalised the results.
New Era understands that voting commenced at 21h00 on Friday, ending at around 05h30 on Saturday, while counting started at 06h10 when the first ballot box was opened.
“Sacky wa Shangala se otwahala kuya (Sacky Shanghala we want to go),” sang a group of exhausted delegates at the entrance of the hall where the counting was taking place.
Some delegates slept on the buses, while others dozed off on the floor as they waited for the results. Yet others kept themselves busy by discussing the election on an SPWC WhatsApp group, where many questioned the process and outcome.
Some of the messages seen by New Era on a delegate’s phone expressed concern as to why it was taking so inordinately long for the results to be announced and some members expressed concern, including Hardap Governor Esme Isaak and Minister of Education, Arts and Culture Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, who opined that the results might be rigged.
“The central committee results, or are they still cooking?” asked Governor Isaak, to which former Hardap governor Hanse-Himarwa replied, saying: “Clear rigged results. What was so difficult in finalising the results if it wasn’t doctored?”
A certain Maureen was also concerned that the result would mean an end to inclusivity, as 80 percent of the central committee would apparently be composed of people from one tribe only.
Contacted for comment Isaak declined to comment on why she thinks the results were rigged, although she confirmed that it was indeed her that commented.
“I will not comment on that. We are living in a democratic Namibia and I have the democratic right to express myself,” she said, adding: “I don’t know why it’s a problem when I give my opinion like others are doing. Why does it concern people?”
Minister Hanse-Himarwa could not be reached for comment on her mobile number.
The questioning of the results seemed an open secret, as Shangala admitted, when announcing the results that there are people accusing him of rigging the results, a notion he was quick to deny, saying he is just a Swapo member helping to oversee the elections.
“Please be assured that I have no intention of rigging the election, because it is being said I’m cooking the results, but I have no intention whatsoever to rig any election,” he said before announcing the winners.
Defeated former SPWC secretary Petrina Haingura was nowhere to be seen during the announcement, as she was already on her way back to Windhoek.
Sources at the meeting claimed she was unhappy over how the elections were handled.
She, however, denied that her early departure had anything to do with the results, stating that she had an urgent matter to attend to in the capital. “I had urgent things to do in Windhoek and I told my colleagues and I left,” she said.
Asked about the overall election process and if the results might have been rigged, she noted that it was very difficult to prove any such allegation, as only a thorough post-mortem would be able to determine if this indeed happened.
“There was a big delay and that’s why people are cautious and questioning the results. I don’t know what happened, so I can’t comment on that. Let’s wait for the post-mortem,” she said.