ECN knocks bigwigs

A battle royal is looming between political parties and the ECN, which is sticking to its guns that MPs, councillors and civil servants affected by Article 47 of the constitution should resign before next month's election.

17 October 2019 | Politics

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has thrown the cat among the pigeons by reiterating its legally backed stance that sitting National Council members, as well as local and regional councillors, must resign if they accept nomination for National Assembly seats in next month's election.

Also in the firing line are party nominees employed in the public service.

The ECN, in a letter to political parties on Monday, said it would strictly apply Article 47 of the Namibian constitution, which bars these individuals from contesting for National Assembly seats if they do not resign ahead of the parliamentary election.

With tomorrow being the deadline for submitting candidates to the ECN, Swapo candidates for the National Assembly such as Margareth Mensah-Williams (chairperson of the National Council), Verna Sinimbo (Rundu town councillor) and Hafeni Ndemula (Erongo regional councillor), will have to resign from their current positions if they want to be on the Swapo candidate list for the 27 November election. Another example is Nudo secretary-general Joseph Kauandenge, who serves on the Windhoek city council, and who must also choose whether to remain with the municipality or resign and try his luck in the National Assembly election.

Kauandenge dismissed the directive as “absurd”, saying his party was consulting its lawyers.

“We have engaged and will continue to engage our lawyers. Our lawyers had a different interpretation of Article 47 and do not agree with the interpretation of the ECN,” Kauandenge said.

Swapo executive director Austin Samupwa said the party was still consulting the ECN but had informed its affected party members.

“They know, but we are still in talks with the ECN,” he said.

Swapo Rundu town councillor Sinimbo – 34th on the Swapo parliamentary list - said she would wait for guidance from the party before making a decision.

Swapo's Omusati regional councillor for the Oshikuku constituency Modestus Amutse said he was unaware of the ECN directive, but would consult with his party.

“If it is calling on us to resign from our positions when we are on the party list, then I will seek guidance from my party. I will openly share my decision, because I value transparency,” he said.

Erongo regional council management committee chairperson Ndemula also said he must wait on Swapo's decision on the way forward.

“I did not nominate myself; I am coming from somewhere, so I must hear from my party. I saw the directive, but I must hear from my party,” he said.

Ndemula is 35th on the ruling party's list of candidate MPs, while Amutse is at 47.

Mensah-Williams, who was originally 92nd on the Swapo parliamentary list but was moved to 24th by party president Hage Geingob, could not be reached for comment.

The veteran legislator is also councillor of the Windhoek North constituency in the Khomas Region - another position she must vacate if she wants to migrate from the National Council to the National Assembly.

The official opposition PDM is still weighing its options and consulting its lawyers, said party leader McHenry Venaani.

The PDM will be hard hit, as almost half of its parliamentary list will be affected.

At least 20 PDM candidates are local councillors and the rest are civil servants such as teachers or nurses.

If the ECN gets its way, the PDM's representative on the Windhoek city council, Ignatius Semba, will have to resign from his position.

Another affected PDM member is Keetmanshoop councillor Charles Pieter.

The Rally for Progress and Democracy is also not spared. Its secretary-general and Windhoek city councillor Brunhilde Cornelius says she will resign.

“ECN has made a big blunder. I told them that they had to give us notice since this was an oversight. Since independence the status quo was that we only resigned after the elections. So, yes, I am resigning,” Cornelius said.

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