Swapo Walvis candidate 'snubbed'
None of the party's top four leaders has addressed Sirie Topulathana's rallies, with some saying this is due to factionalism, while others say it was to avoid further infuriating the town's fishermen, who lost their jobs due to the so-called Fishrot scandal.
13 January 2020 | Politics
Sirie Topulathana has seemingly been isolated for her perceived links to Team Swapo, a faction that lost to Team Harambee at the 2017 Swapo elective congress.
Observers said by isolating Topulathana, the party leaders have missed an opportunity to promote unity in the party by embracing all those who contest on its ticket.
She faces a challenge from three candidates, two independent and the other from the resurgent Popular Democratic Movement (PDM).
Swapo insiders claim there had been an internal struggle right from the beginning to get Topulathana endorsed as the party's candidate, because of her perceived association with Team Swapo.
With Swapo hanging onto its Walvis Bay support by its fingernails, there has been a feeling that the party should have unleashed its top leadership - in the form of party president Hage Geingob, vice-president Netumbo Nandi Ndaitwah, secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa and deputy SG Marco Hausiku - to reassure the constituency's electorate about the party's plans for them.
Swapo losing support in Walvis Bay has been linked to thousands of fishing jobs being lost through retrenchments that came about after a decision to strip many private companies of their fishing quotas. These quotas were then dished out to the benefit of those involved in the ongoing Fishrot saga, in which over N$150 million in bribes allegedly changed hands.
Former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau is currently in custody and so is former justice minister Sacky Shanghala. Four other men are also behind bars in relation to the saga.
The retrenched fishermen feel the party and its leaders in government deserted them in their hour of need.
While some believe that the Swapo top four have deserted Topulathana in her quest for office, others feel the leaders have lost credibility at the town and chose not to show up at the rallies.
“Their presence would infuriate the electorate further, especially in Erongo,” a party leader said.
Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah also shares this view.
“I think the main issue is that you do not want to send a person who people are angry with, and thus running the risk of being chased away. It is a very dire situation Swapo is in right now, so it was also like a rescue situation and asking for forgiveness by sending the founding father [Sam Nujoma],” he said.
He added that if Swapo loses the by-election, Nujoma would be in the firing line.
“Let us say an independent candidate wins, then Nujoma's legacy is at risk, because it will say a lot about the legacy of Swapo and the legacy of the big man.”
Only Nujoma and his son Utoni have so far addressed Topulathana's rallies in the build-up to this week's by-election.
No top support
Some insiders, however, believe that Topulathana has no support from the top.
“I would believe that if she was given proper support by the party, she would be so comfortable and confident. It is not only Walvis Bay, the same goes for the Khomasdal candidate. There were also a lot of misgivings and squabbles in the internal selection of a candidate and eventually the current candidate was imposed onto people,” said another source.
Swapo secretary for information Hilma Nicanor said she is aware of people who want to set the agenda for the party, but emphasised that the party has structures and does not believe in individual leadership.
She also rejected the notion that the Team Harambee vs Team Swapo divisions are still at play.
“Swapo has a programme and guiding documents according to which we do our thing as a party. It is unfortunate for those who want to prescribe our things; we do not do our things like that. The members know exactly what to do in terms of identifying candidates. In both cases, the necessary party structure has done the identification in line with party processes. And once the candidates were identified, the whole party rallies behind them,” she said.
Nujoma endorses Topulathana
During a rally on Saturday, Nujoma said Topulathana's experience in the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) and the Swapo Party Women's Council (SPWC) in the Erongo Region makes her the right person to be next regional councillor for the constituency.
“Comrade Sirie is one of the most dynamic, energetic, focused and humble young leaders in our society. For the past 12 years, she has dedicated her youthful life to the service of the Swapo Party and the community of Walvis Bay,” said Nujoma at a packed Kuisebmund stadium.
Topulathana was entrusted with several responsibilities within the party, Nujoma said.
These include serving as the SPYL secretary for information, mobilisation and publicity for the Getrude Kandanga branch in the Walvis Bay Urban Constituency.
She was also the SPWC's treasurer of the same branch, as well as a member of Swapo's urban district executive committee.
Nujoma also said the party in the Erongo Region has relied heavily on Topulathana, especially for political mobilisation.
“Comrade Sirie understands the needs and aspirations of Walvis Bay residents and has demonstrated the ability to articulate these needs and aspirations very well.”
“As a youth, Comrade Sirie is well-versed with the various challenges faced by the people in the Walvis Bay Urban Constituency, particularly the youth in this constituency,” he said.
Topulathana thanked the Swapo leadership for nominating her to be the party's candidate and assured the residents of the constituency that she will improve their standard of living.
“My nomination is not a personal victory, but a victory for the Walvis Bay Urban Constituency collectively with the talent that exists in our constituency and to ensure a better life for all our people.
“The Walvis Bay Urban Constituency has a population which continues to grow rapidly. I must therefore ensure that our people have access to education, healthcare, nutrition and skills development, to ensure that they participate in the mainstream of our economy and become skilled,” she said.
ADOLF KAURE AND JEMIMA BEUKES