by Sakeus Iikela, Hileni Nembwaya, Luqman Cloete, Adam Hartman, Eliaser Ndeyanale and Shinovene Immanuel
NAMIBIA’S ruling Swapo party has lost control of its political power at more than 19 constituencies countrywide.
These results have displaced the party as a major power player at key economic hubs such as Walvis Bay, Windhoek, Swakopmund, the Zambezi region and the south of Namibia.
Swapo has enjoyed absolute control over regional councils and various local authorities since 1992.
In 2015, Swapo won 112 of the 121 regional council seats, and controlled 52 of the 57 local authorities.
With about 31% of the total number of constituencies declared yesterday, the ruling party had already lost more than 20 constituencies.
The party was also defeated by the Landless People’s Movement (LPM), which wrestled full control of two southern regions – //Kharas and Hardap.
The highlight of this election is probably the emergence of the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) under president Panduleni Itula – known by some as ‘Kandjafa’ for his navy blue suits.
The IPC has gone head-to-head with Swapo at several economic towns such as Walvis Bay, where Swapo is likely to hand over political control of the region.
The IPC has also snacthed the Windhoek East constituency from Swapo.
The constituency consists of upper-class suburbs such as Auasblick, Avis, Klein Windhoek, Ludwigsdorf, Olympia, and Suiderhof.
The IPC’s Brian Black won in that constituency.
The competition between the IPC and Swapo was stiff.
At Windhoek West the ruling party won by three votes only.
Emma Muteka (Swapo) won that constituency with 3 250 votes, while the IPC’s Visagie Jacobus got 3 247 votes.
ANOTHER POST-MORTEM NEEDED FOR SWAPO
Graham Hopwood, political commentator and director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), yesterday said Wednesday’s results indicate that Swapo has failed to restore its support base in the last 12 months and may have lost further backing.
“The party’s mixed messages on crucial issues like corruption failed to convince voters. No doubt further introspection is in order, but having failed to address its weaknesses over the past 12 months I wonder if the party is really able to self-correct and reach out to the many frustrated and disillusioned people in the country,” Hopwood said.
He said the results also show that Swapo’s support was still strong in most of the populous Katutura constituencies.
It could take Swapo time to regain its support in the regions that it lost to the LPM and the IPC, he said.
For this, Hopwood said a post-Covid economic recovery plan and a new approach on tackling corruption will be crucial if the party is going to revive its fortunes.
He said the opposition also needs to work more to prove themselves as effective at the level of regional and local governance.
“Voters can now judge them in action and see if they are as good as their words,” he said.
The IPC’s Ciske Smith is Swakopmund’s new constituency councillor.
Smith will be replacing Swapo’s Juuso Kambueshe, who is also the Erongo regional council’s chairman.
Smith, who is the first white female to represent a constituency on the regional council, said the victory was “expected” as the electorate of Swakopmund wanted a change of guard.
“We are very grateful toward the people of Swakopmund to have put their trust in us. Now it is hard work from here,” she said yesterday.
Swapo coordinator for the Erongo region Daniel Muhuura yesterday said the takeover by the IPC for the Walvis Bay Rural and Swakopmund constituencies is a “total new change”.
“Swakopmund will not be the same without Swapo at the helm. This IPC candidate is someone we know nothing about – whether she has a track record of leadership or a political background,” he said.
“Of course we are not happy with the loss, and we are surprised because we were confident Swapo would take these constituencies.”
The ruling party also failed to recapture Daures from the United Democratic Front (UDF).
UDF president Apius Auchab yesterday said Daures was won by his party during the regional authority election in 2015 when there were only three parties contending – therefore Muhuura’s conclusion “is wrong”.
According to him, the UDF also did well at Karibib.
Auchab also celebrated the UDF’s victory at the Kunene region.
“We are very happy with the results. The elections were free and fair overall. The UDF is still very much alive,” he said.
SHERIFF OF THE SOUTH
The LPM scooped four constituencies, Keetmanshoop Urban, Karasburg East, Berseba and Keetmanshoop Rural in the//Kharas region.
In the Hardap region, the party has won seven of the eight contested seats, which previously belonged to Swapo.
This represents the Gibeon, Daweb, Aranos, Mariental Urban and Rural, Rehoboth West and Rehoboth Rural constituencies.
The ruling party only retained the Rehoboth Urban East constituency.
LPM leader Bernadus Swartbooi yesterday said: “While we are consumed by the heavy sense of excitement, we are also consumed by the responsibility and our mandate to serve the electorate and to ensure corrupt-free, transparent regional and local governance.”
Swartbooi said he is looking forward to a good working relationship between his party and the central government.
“We have not taken over the regional and local governments in the region to settle scores,” he said.
Swapo’s regional coordinator for //Kharas, Mathew Mumbala, yesterday said the party will go back to the drawing board to find out why it has lost voter support.
He was, however, optimistic that the party would bounce back in the next elections.
Bids by Affirmative Repositioning activists Angelina Immanuel and Paulus Paulus to gain political power failed.
Immanuel and Paulus contested in the Ondangwa Urban and Oshakati West constituencies, and obtained fewer than 1 000 votes each.
Preliminary results released by the ECN shows that Paulus got 439 votes while Immanuel garnered 535 votes.
Immanuel was defeated by Independent Patriots for Change candidate Fillemon Negonga, who scored 2 434 votes.
Outside of politics, Immanuel is a 29-year-old youth activist and teacher.
She yesterday attributed her downfall to the formation of the IPC.
She said most voters could not differentiate between the IPC and the independent candidate, herself.
She said most people who voted for the IPC were under the impression they were voting for her.
“I also received complaints from my party agents that the polling officials did not count some of my votes, because about 18 spoilt ballot papers were all in my name. I can’t complain much though. It was a good push.”
Immanuel said a lack of unity among contesting candidates contributed heavily to her loss.
“These results should teach people and political parties to unite … I believe that should the IPC and I have stood together and united for the main purpose, I could have managed to garner more votes compared to what I got,” she said.
Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said it was a tough election for independent candidates as only a few of them made the cut.
“I think what really destroyed them was the rift between the IPC and the AR. It’s difficult for an independent candidate without a strong support base behind them to win,” he said.
National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) president Esther Muinjangue said she is satisfied with the election results so far, and blasted the emergence of independent candidates.
“I’m the happiest woman at the moment,” she said yesterday.
Muinjangue said her party has won in four constituencies, including Otjinene, Okakarara and Leonardville.
“I have been operating in turbulent times in the party. But I kept four constituencies” she said.
The ruling party also lost in the Zambezi region.
Swapo regional coordinator Moffat Sileze said the fact that they lost in four constituencies, namely Kongola, Linyanti, Judea and Lyabboloma, to independent candidates and Sibbinda to the IPC, is heartbreaking for him as a leader.
VENAANI WANTS COALITION
The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) is among the biggest losers in these elections, losing more than nine constituencies it held from the 2015 elections.
The party’s leader, McHenry Venaani, yesterday blamed his party’s poor performance on the polarisation of the opposition vote.
Venaani said it is evident that opposition parties combined have defeated the ruling party in numerous constituencies, but “due to the polarisation of votes, the ruling party will get through with the minority vote on aggregate”.
Venaani said he was, however, not impressed at how his party performed in Wednesday’s elections.
“This is not our best election as a party. It was something that we anticipated, that’s why we initially had the idea of forming a coalition with other political parties to avoid a situation where the people who are fighting for the same thing are running against each other,” he said.
Venaani said going forward, talks of merging opposition parties should be intensified.
“… the major players must come together and work out a Malawian type of formula. We will need all oppositions to come together and have one candidate for a president.” he said.