Swapo sharpens expulsion axe
07 September 2020 | Politics
Swapo information secretary Hilma Nicanor says the party now finally has the power to deal with members who associate themselves with other political entities, or run as independent candidates.
At this weekend's extraordinary congress, which took place as a virtual event amid the Covid-19 regulations limiting gatherings to 10 people, the party resolved to amend article 6 of its constitution, which will now enable it to expel members who register entities with the intention to run independently for an election.
The amendment follows a tug of war with former party member Panduleni Itula, who ran as an independent presidential candidate opposing the party candidate, Hage Geingob, in the 2019 election.
“Why should somebody want to go and stand as an independent candidate to contest elections when you still call yourself a Swapo member but contesting against the party which has field candidates? That is what the party is saying, that that person must dismiss him or herself,” Nicanor said.
She added that the party's legal minds had given their input and the decision was not taken lightly.
“Swapo is the very party which has brought democracy to this country and there is no way we can just make decisions without being considerate of those principles,” she said.
Despite several calls from party members to expel Itula in the run-up to last year's presidential poll, in which he eventually scooped nearly 30% of the vote, the party was unable to decisively deal with dentist-turned-politician, although they accused him of being out to destroy and weaken the party.
The party has also had run-ins with its youth leaders, including Job Amupanda of the radical youth movement Affirmative Repositioning (AR), who were expelled from the party for confronting its top leadership.
That expulsion blew up in the party's face when it was ordered by the High Court to reinstate the youth leaders.
Logical and fair
Political analyst Graham Hopwood says amending the Swapo constitution will avoid any future “Dr Itula type situation” whereby some voters might be confused as to which candidate really represents Swapo.
According to him, it does seem logical that members of a particular party would be expected not to stand against that party on another ticket, and if they do, there are bound to be repercussions that might result in expulsion.
“[However], administrative bodies and administrative officials shall act fairly and reasonably and comply with the requirements imposed upon such bodies and officials by common law and any relevant legislation. And persons aggrieved by the exercise of such acts and decisions shall have the right to seek redress before a competent court or tribunal,” he said.
Constitutional expert Professor Nico Horn said Itula taught the party a valuable lesson. He added that if someone is disloyal to a party, they cannot expect to jump back onto the wagon if the election did not go well for them.
He said potential lawsuits are inevitable, as was the case with the AR youth leaders, and that the court had made it very clear that members must have a chance to answer for their actions.
“You will have to have a disciplinary hearing and then you can act when you have found them guilty. Although in this case it is almost still logical that the guys who will eventually be expelled, that maybe the courts will look at it differently. But if I was a Swapo member at the congress, I would say the safest way would be to have disciplinary hearing but to make it clear in the constitution that anybody who opposes a Swapo candidate cannot be a member of the party,” he said.