Want some insight in Namibian politics? I am no expert but have 16 years (1995-2011) of writing on Namibian politics in The Namibian newspaper and can probably offer you a bit more than you know about the who's who in the Namibian political zoo. You will also find a few articles commenting on other issues of concern in the country. Hope you find it interesting. - Christof

Thursday, December 9, 2010

From Pohamba, With Love

PRESIDENT Hifikepunye Pohamba finally lifted the veil this week when he announced some of the names of our new regional governors.
I was surprised by two appointments. I could never have imagined former teacher and Ambassador Joshua //Hoëbeb as governor of Kunene, nor the loud-mouthed bully boy of the Swapo kindergarten, Bernardus Clinton Swartbooi, as the new head of the Karas Region!
I know many in Swapo, as well as the Cabinet, were also surprised by the inclusion of the two.
While Swartbooi, a trained teacher and lawyer, will infuse energy into the Karas region, //Hoëbeb’s appointment probably had more to do with his wisdom and leadership qualities.
I have yet to establish the reasons behind the reshuffling of people like Samuel Nuuyoma from Erongo to Khomas and Pohamba’s decision to send Sophia Shaningwa to Omusati.
But both are tested leaders who came out with flying colours in the regions and to send a person with a hands-on approach like Shaningwa to Omusati probably means the President wants action to bring to an end that region’s colossally dysfunctional leadership.
He also probably wanted to ensure that Khomas will not suffer in the process and opted to move Nuuyoma, whose telegenic charm appears not to be his only major asset. He has delivered reasonably well during his time at the coast.
Pohamba has kept his faith in Clemence Kashuupulwa (Oshana), Katrina Hanse-Himarwa (Hardap), Penda ya Ndakolo (Oshikoto), Usko Nghaamwa (Ohangwena) and Laura McLeod-Katjirua (Omaheke).
Three months ago McLeod-Katjirua announced that she was going to become a full-time housewife! One or two others said they were going into full-time farming, but as we could see from the list they have changed their minds!
The President’s indecision on who should head Otjozondjupa, Kavango and Caprivi regions have cast doubt over the amount of thinking he has put into the new appointments.
Surely he must have initiated the process months ago when the amendments were made to the Regional Council Act.
But we must appreciate the fact that he is not appointing people just for the sake of it and perhaps he is giving the matter more thought than people may believe, as he still has three to decide on.
Caprivi especially, has so many cultural and local dynamics that need proper scrutiny before someone is appointed. In my view an outsider would be the perfect choice since the governorship now has more to do with the actual delivery of services.
This is a region that needs serious attention in terms of development projects and the uplifting of the living standards of so many depressed people.
From previous announcements it seems the governors will have a small team of technically skilled people (some at the level of a Permanent Secretary) to assist them in their work. I imagine people such as economists on such teams.
The small team will be expected to operate in tandem with already existing regional staff. That in itself will be a challenge as very clear guidelines will be needed to avoid office conflicts. My hope is that the President’s appointments will not be made based purely on political affiliation as the main benchmark. In other words, people such as regional coordinators and other party loyalists should not simply be appointed to lessen the pay burden on the ruling party.
We need go-getters who will stay away from sapping but useless, tribal, political and local fights.
We must avoid the conflict of political as opposed to regional social and economic interests.


Monday, December 6, 2010

What Went Wrong In Windhoek East?

SWAPO’s poor performance in the Windhoek East constituency in last week’s election has raised many eyebrows among the party’s followers while the political aficionados have their hands in their hair as they ponder what exactly might have led to the change.

As for Swapo members, the North was abuzz this week with discussion and rumours as to whether all those in Windhoek East constituency who claim to be members of the party were indeed so!
Democrats of all persuasions will agree with me that there is nothing wrong with Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) candidate Nic Kruger collecting the majority of votes in a constituency in which many of the rich and affluent society of Namibia live.
Kruger is a well known personality and led a strategic campaign and his win can be compared to Swapo’s victories in Omaruru and Dâures which created much euphoria among the party’s rank and file. They took the two constituencies from the United Democratic Front.
The Dâures constituency was an especially severe blow since it lies in the heartland of UDF and because the seat of the Damara people is Okombahe.
Therefore, like the UDF in Omaruru and Okombahe, there were very few vuvuzelas for Swapo to blow in Windhoek East.
But the ruling party can’t take an ostrich-head-in-the-sand approach in that constituency.
It is an area made up of, among others, the Suiderhof Military Base, Luiperdsvallei Military Base and Israel Patrick Iyambo Police College.
It means soldiers and Police trainees are supposed to be among the 8 660 registered voters in the constituency.
Residents of Ludwigsdorf, Suiderhof and Olympia are also in the constituency.
Those residents include Swapo’s top brass like founding President Sam Nujoma, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, Swapo vice president Hage Geingob, Prime Minister Nahas Angula, Speaker of the National Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab, Swapo secretary general Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, former Deputy Prime Minister Libertina Amathila, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, suspended army chief Martin Shalli, Tuliameni Kalomoh, Tom Alweendo, Eunice Ipinge, Aaron Mushimba, Andrew Ndishishi and former Windhoek Mayor Matheus Shikongo.
They are all regarded as very influential members of the party.
Windhoek East was gerrymandered and part of it was combined with places such as Groot Aub, Stinkwater, Dordabis, Brakwater, Mix Camp, Eselmaanhaar and other farms around Windhoek to ‘export’ votes out to Windhoek Rural and thereby increase Swapo’s chances of keeping the constituency.
So what exactly went wrong with Swapo in Windhoek East constituency?
The answer is simple. Many did not vote.
Soldiers, trainee Police officers and the rich or well-off Swapo members and their families living in the posh areas of Windhoek stayed away from the polling stations.
There is a feeling among Swapo members in Hakahana, Okahandja Park, Ombili and Havana that their well-off comrades in those areas see no need to vote. That is apparently also the reason why there were no campaign rallies there and many did not display the party’s flags at their houses.
That’s a tricky rationale because some of those living in the posh suburbs are judges (like Petrus Damaseb) and civil servants (like Andrew Ndishishi and Joseph Iita) who should not be seen politicking because of their duties in the society.
But I wonder whether we are not dealing with an embryonic trend here, especially in the army camps.
We all know that Martin Shalli, a highly influential soldier, remains suspended for more than a year.
What type of impact does his suspension have on the decision of the soldiers to stay away from the polling stations? Does it indeed have an impact? Were the soldiers and police discouraged from voting, and if so, by whom?
When Swapo narrowly beat RDP by two votes in New York in last year’s general elections, it was the catalyst to the calls by the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) for the recall of Namibia’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr Kaire Mbuende.
Although Mbuende had no impact on the Namibians living in the US and who voted at the embassy’s premises, he has since been recalled.
Does it mean that SPYL will also agitate for the recall of the party’s top heavyweights after the Windhoek East failure?