Intra-party cracks widen in opposition
Minority parties struggle to forge internal unity
12 March 2021 | Politics
Just months after pushing the ruling party onto the curbs in the regional council and local authority elections, opposition parties have been rocked by a series of fallouts that threaten to eliminate the gains made.
The biggest winners at last year's polls - Landless Peoples Movement (LPM) and the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) - have struggled to maintain the decorum within their respective movements after washing their dirty political linen in public.
All this comes at a time when political analysts feel that opposition parties have a golden opportunity to show the voting masses that there is a better alternative to the ruling party.
With the ruling party having lost its political zeal in recent years, it looked as if a new era of opposition politics was emerging and that the country was moving away from a one-party political structure. The birth of smaller parties such as IPC and LPM led to Swapo losing control of key economic hubs such as the coast, Windhoek and the southern part of the country. LPM, IPC, Affirmative Repositioning, Popular Democratic Movement and Nudo joined forces to control the City of Windhoek. But apart from their united stand against Swapo, the parties have little in common. Coalitions in Namibia have always been precarious. The Windhoek coalition is still dilly-dallying on signing the coalition agreement, three months after taking over the helm.
After a stellar display at the 2019 parliamentary and 2020 regional and local authority polls, LPM now has to fend off internal squabbles that have severely dented the brand of the party.
Last week, it suspended two of its councillors in Mariental for allegedly being too close to the Swapo Party.
Daniel Gariseb and Rogetha Haack were axed from the town council and have since threatened to drag the party to court if they are not reinstated. The two also say no disciplinary processes were carried out before their suspension.
In a letter from their lawyer, the duo accused the party's leadership of being corrupt.
“We are instructed that despite all the deserved criticism of Swapo, you are now resorting to the same levels of corruption,” read their lawyers letter.
They also accuse the party's leader Bernadus Swartbooi of nepotism because the Mayor of Mariental, Adam Kuhlman, is his brother.
Kuhlman, running on an LPM ticket, is allegedly in the process of appointing his cousin, Anwar Thomas, as his personal assistant.
The party is also entangled in a fight with its chief campaigner for southern Kunene, McKay Losper.
Losper recently made public that he is no longer a member of LPM, citing an avalanche of alleged injustices and internal shortcomings.
The party's deputy spokesperson Joyce Muzengua said the party was warned by prominent community members about Losper's “questionable personality”.
“Losper is a troubled soul and an anarchist contrary to what he claims and attributes to LPM leadership,” she said.
She said the party gave Losper a chance to prove his critics wrong.
On Losper's claims that he funded his own campaign, Muzengua said the party does not have millions in its bank account, and party members knew this before their nominations for the elections.
The youngest kid on the block was founded less than five months before last year's polls and dominated most of the areas in which it contested.
However, party leader Dr Panduleni Itula now has the unenviable task of ensuring that the public utterances made by his party members are in line with the party's protocols in order to protect the brand of the party.
Last month IPC's mobiliser in Ohangwena, Abed-Nego 'Bishop' Hishoono, was served with a final written warning by the education ministry over remarks made on social media, including the accusation that government is failing to provide enough stationery for learners.
In February, he landed in hot water when he posted a video in which he accused First Lady Monica Geingos of being involved in the collapse of Air Namibia due to her previous ties to West Air. He also alleged that one of her children was fathered by a Fishrot accused.
Hishoono later withdrew his comments after receiving a notice from Geingos' lawyers.
IPC sources said Itula was not impressed with Hishoono's actions and threatened to axe him if he failed to withdraw his comments.
Another party leader who has recently made headlines is party spokesperson Imms Nashinge, after he allegedly called socialite Beata Siteketa a prostitute.
He turned himself in at the Otjomuise Police Station on Friday morning where he admitted guilt and was subsequently fined.
Siteketa now wants Nashinge to pay N$400 000 for defamation of character and vowed to drag the matter to the High Court.
The country's official opposition party found itself on the wrong side of the law last year when it amended its parliamentary list to exclude several party members.
The list in question consists of several people who defied the ECN directive to resign from their positions in the public service, local authorities and regional councils before the National Assembly (NA) election.
The party recently tabled a motion in parliament seeking for the amendment of relevant parts of the Constitution and Electoral Act, which prohibit individuals employed in public service from being nominated as NA candidates.
Initially, the party submitted to ECN a list consisting of McHenry Venaani, Jennifer van den Heever, Ricky Vries, Vipua Muharukua, Nico Smit, Jan van Wyk, Elma Dienda, Esme !Aebes, Johannes Martin, Kazeongere Tjeundo, Inna Hengari, Geoffrey Mwilima, Elizabeth Celeste Becker, Sydney Ndumba, Winnie Moongo and Pieter Mostert at number 16.
ECN subsequently removed some PDM members [who had refused to resign] from the party list, forcing the party to comply with the Electoral Act.
The list which was gazetted after the removal of some members was in the following order: Venaani, followed by Van den Heever, Vries, Muharukua, Smit, Van Wyk, Dienda, Hengari, Becker, Moongo, Frans Bertolini, Charmaine Tjirare, Yvette Araes, Maximilliant Katjimune, Raymond Diergaardt and Venaani's father, Mike Venaani at number 16.
Despite the internal friction being kept under wraps, it is understood that the affected group is still pushing to go to parliament.