Parties can’t force councillors - Shakumu

07 February 2019 | Politics

KENYA KAMBOWE

Lawyer Silas-Kishi Shakumu says there is no legal basis on which political parties can force councillors to maintain or change the status quo when it comes to the election and swearing-in of local authority office-bearers.

Shakumu’s comments come just days after Swapo gave its Rundu and Okahandja councillors an ultimatum to follow previous directives by its secretary-general, Sophia Shaningwa, which they have so far defied.

Shaningwa instructed in November last year that changes should be made to the Okahandja office-bearers structure, while Rundu’s structure should remain the same.

According to Shaningwa’s latest letters, dated 4 February, she indicated to Swapo Otjozondjupa regional coordinator Susan Hikopua and the party’s Kavango East regional coordinator, Otillie Shinduvi that both matters were discussed during last Wednesday’s Swapo politburo meeting, where it was decided her earlier directives should be adhered to.

The deadline for implementation is today.

Shaningwa instructed the Okahandja council to demote mayor Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou to an ordinary council member, while in Rundu, Verna Sinimbo should retain her position as mayor, without any other changes.

Shakumu, who is well versed with the Local Authorities Act and has trained local authority councillors over the years, argues there is no legal basis for any political leadership to impose on councillors whom should occupy which position.

“The political leadership has no legal basis to force the councillors to maintain or change the status quo. To do so would amount to the taking over of the councillors’ responsibilities,” Shakumu says.

He further argues that once councillors are sworn in after the local government elections, they are no longer under the direct control of political parties.

“Once councillors are sworn in, they are no longer functioning on political party lines. They are one and can nominate and vote for each other, irrespective of their political affiliation. To leave that function to the party leadership is to totally undermine the intelligence, capacity and judgement of those individuals we elected to represent us on the council,” Shakumu says.

“The councillors themselves know each other better than anyone else and hence only they are in a better position to decide, based on the past 12 months they have served, who is capable to lead the pack.”

Shakumu says the judiciary has also pronounced itself on the meddling of political parties in the affairs of councils, which has been described as unauthorised and unwarranted.

“The swearing-in of the local authority councillors should take place no later than Thursday, 7 February 2019, as earlier directed by the office of the secretary-general,” Shaningwa wrote in her 4 February letters to Hikopua and Shinduvi.

When contacted for comment earlier this week, Hikopua and Shinduvi said the letters were passed on to the respective Swapo district executive committees.

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