Itula and the white vote

16 September 2020 | Politics



Former independent presidential candidate and leader of Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) Dr Panduleni Itula is making inroads in garnering the white vote as the November regional and local authority elections draw closer.

Analyst told Namibian Sun that the white vote is inclined to Itula as he represented an untainted clique of Swapo where he cut his political teeth while others believe that Swapo's position on the controversial New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework (NEEEF) Bill is exactly what is driving white voters into Itula's arms.

White Namibians have traditionally voted for Kosie Pretorius's Monitor Action Group (MAG), the Republican Party (RP) and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), the forerunner of the PDM. Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah says although white voters are in the minority, their votes will make an impact this November.

“Historically, white Namibians tended to vote for the RP, a fraction for the DTA, or stay away from elections. But in the last election, PDM

got a substantial support from the white community, therefore whites flocking to Itula might negatively affect the PDM. But a subtle impact might be in the form of their motivation to turn out in numbers on election day, especially in a situation where we will have low turnout due to Covid-19,” he said.

New political agency

According to Henning Melber, IPC allows white voters to identify with a new political agency which does not have the taste of apartheid, while PDM is still battling with this perception from many black voters.

He added that white Namibians are looking for an option to associate with a truly Namibian party free of skeletons, and thereby get rid of any associations with 'baasskap' and white supremacy.

Melber also argued that other newbies like the LPM and the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) are too far removed from white mindsets to be considered as alternatives, and are most likely associated with tendencies similar to Swapo in terms of land reform policies.

Protest vote

Graham Hopwood said white voters' change in political affiliation could be attributed to them becoming more politically engaged since the economy went into recession in 2016. Many white-owned businesses are now struggling due to the recession and this situation has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on views being expressed on social media groups, some whites are also worried about the prospect of NEEEF damaging their businesses and radical land reform removing property rights,” he said.

According to Hopwood, this means IPC could pick up a protest vote from those unhappy with the status quo and the way Swapo is governing the country. IPC is the most likely beneficiary of any 'white protest vote' as its principles and policies appear quite general while parties like the LPM and the AR candidates are viewed as more radical - particularly on land reform. PDM could also pick up votes from a politically re-engaged white community,” he said.

NEEEF 'plays considerable role'

Political professor Lesley Blaauw agreed that NEEEF plays a considerable role in white Namibians' attraction to IPC.

“To my mind, the whole economic outlook would be in favour of those who control the economy now. In addition, other parties do not wholly embrace the issue of meritocracy, and focus on affirmative action in whole or in part would not be that attractive to them,” Blaauw said. Last week, Itula said NEEEF goes against the Namibian Constitution and can potentially violate Namibians' right to private property.

PDM 'only real alternative'

Meanwhile, Venaani said his concern is that in every election, there are new parties arising out of Swapo whose leaders and supporters return to the ruling party once elections are over.

“We were told [Hidipo] Hamutenya would be the kingmaker because he was Omuwambo and he would break the Owambo base; it didn't happen. Ben Ulenga didn't and Itula came and we were told that he would have a better chance than Hage because he is Omuwambo and it didn't happen. People must decide what they want,” he said. Venaani pointed out that PDM offers the only real alternative and has been the only party so far to have broken Swapo's two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

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