Swapo makes U-turn on 10-year rule
11 August 2020 | Politics
After much criticism, Swapo has made a sudden U-turn and changed its 10-year membership requirement for those who want to vie as candidates for the upcoming regional and local authority elections.
Potential candidates now only have to be members of Swapo for five years.
The party's secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa issued a directive on last Thursday, which stipulated that all districts that have completed their mandates, with the exception of the Rundu Urban district, should identify their candidates for the constituency councillor positions.
The directive stated that the names of these councillors must be accompanied by proof of Swapo membership of no less than 10 years, proof of payment of annual fees and a 1% membership contribution, a Namibian identification document and voter card.
The candidates must also submit their curriculum vitae and their political profile for consideration.
But Swapo made a U-turn the very next day, on 7 August, and stated that the requirement for both local authority and regional councillors is now five years of party membership.
In 2019, Shaningwa said there are “no free lunches” and whoever stands for a position should have earned that right.
At the time she emphasised that if people want to stand for regional coordinator positions they should have been party members for 10 consecutive years, while those eyeing regional information and mobilisation officer, regional treasurer and district coordinator posts must have been Swapo members for five consecutive years.
Political commentator Graham Hopwood said the directive is counterproductive and the party must do more to appeal to its young voters.
“When one considers the appointment of deputy information minister Emma Teofelus, then she would have been a member since she was 17 or 18. If they want to appeal to the youth then they have to involve the youth in their political activities. Even with five years, you are cutting out potentially a lot of talented young people who could contribute,” he said.
He added that the logical follow-up from the party's recent introspection meeting, where it pledged commitment to grooming youth leaders, would be to allow younger regional councillors, and local representatives to function in the party.
This, Hopwood said, would help the party's profile and will start the with the creation of a next-generation leadership.
The circular also excludes the Otjozondjupa Region.
Swapo's regional coordinator for Otjozondjupa, Susan Hikopua, yesterday said the region was yet to sort out some issues.
These included the renewal of mandate as well as some internal squabbles.
“I cannot tell you now, but some members were unhappy and the matter has been reported to the national office. We are still waiting for feedback. So, for now you can speak to the SG,” said Hikopua.
Infighting has been the order of the day in this region, with Hikopua herself coming under fire from members accusing her of abusing her office.
In June this year, more than 50 party members protested, claiming that she had abused her position and conducted illegal restructuring exercises in the districts of Okahandja, Tsumkwe, Grootfontein and Omatako.
Hikopua denied this.
The Rundu Urban constituency has also had its fair share of infighting, with three councillors recalled in February this year.
The three councillors are Isak Kandingu, who served as Rundu mayor last year, Anastacia Antonio and Toini Hausiku, the wife of Shaningwa's deputy, Marco Hausiku.
The bone of contention is the interpretation of the ruling party's constitution, the party rules and procedures, as well the Local Authorities Act in terms of who has the power to recall councillors and what process should be followed.
Rundu Urban constituency councillor Victoria Kauma directed queries to Shaningwa.
When contacted for comment, Shaningwa said these were “internal party matters” that should not be discussed with the media.
Meanwhile, political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said the outcry on social media in response to the 10-year requirement made the party look bad.
“Swapo has just come out of an introspection meeting where it placed much focus on the youth vote and leadership.
“It makes them look undemocratic and a lot of people will not be eligible to run. There certainly was some sort of pressure that is why changed so suddenly,” he said.
On the new reduced requirement, Kamwanyah said the party discriminated against genuine newcomers.
“I am actually wondering why they would want to do it that way. It is really unnecessary. I hear they do not want opportunities in leadership, but it is not necessary. There are other ways to deal with opportunism,” he said.