Ministry reins in parties

Parties have no right to dictate who should occupy what position when local authority councillors elect office bearers.

09 December 2019 | Government

The urban and rural development ministry has reiterated that political parties have no legal right to dictate who should occupy what position when local authority councillors elect office bearers.

This is according to the ministry's executive director, Nghidinua Daniel, who wrote a series of letters to all local authority chief executives about office-bearer elections.

In the first letter dated 1 October, Daniel simply reminded the CEOs that they should conduct their elections of office bearers as per Section 11 and Section 21 of the Local Authorities Act.

Daniel sent another letter dated 22 November, pointing out that it is illegal for political parties to dictate who should serve in what capacity.

“It has come to the attention of the ministry that some political parties are issuing directives contrary to Section 11 and Section 21 of the Local Authorities Act, 1992 (Act No. 23 of 1992) as amended,” Daniel wrote.

“Hence, this circular serves as a reminder that all local authority councils must elect office bearers on or before the expiry of their term of the current office bearers in terms of Section 11 and Section 21 of the Local Authorities Act, Act No 23, of 1992 as amended.

“This is the legal requirement and the elections in this regard must be held every year and the political parties' directives are not based on any legal provision and therefore cannot be enforced legally. In this regard, you are hereby reminded to initiate and ensure that the elections take place as per the law.”

Political parties have been ignoring the stipulations of the Local Authorities Act for a long time, dictating which of their local councillors should occupy what positions in the councils' management committees.

Lately some councillors have defied the party instructions, to the extent of threatening the party with court action.

Last November, three of the five Swapo councillors at Rundu made headlines when they defied the party's directive.

At the time Swapo Party secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa had instructed that no changes must be made to the existing structure. The three Swapo councillors, Isak Kandingu, Toini Hausiku and Anastacia Shinduvi-Foya, refused to comply.

At one point Shaningwa, with the blessing of the Swapo Politburo, decided to recall the three councillors but that failed after the councillors threatened to ask the High Court for relief.

The three had to travel to Windhoek for a high-level meeting at the Swapo headquarters, which President Hage Geingob also attended. The conclusion was that the councillors had to return to their local authority and serve the residents.

The Okahandja town councillors also defied Shaningwa's directive at the time. When approached, Shaningwa told Namibian Sun that she was aware of the letters but she would not comment.

Shaningwa referred Namibian Sun to the minister of urban and rural development, Peya Mushelenga.

“Yes I am aware. Best you speak to the minister, who is also a member of the party,” Shaningwa said briefly.

Mushelenga, for his part, said he could not comment on the matter because his office does not deal with administrative issues.

All People's Party (APP) secretary-general Vincent Kanyetu told Namibian Sun that he was not surprised by the ministry's directive, but his party had always complied with the Act.

“It is not news to us, it is in the Act. It was only Swapo who was doing it illegally,” Kanyetu said.

Namibian Sun was reliably informed that the Rundu town council will elect its office bearers on Wednesday.

KENYA KAMBOWE

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