Namibia: Swapo Demands Legal Costs in Congress Court Challenge

Two Swapo Party members who have asked the High Court to declare the party's 2017 congress unlawful and unconstitutional will have to pay legal costs of close to N$750 000 after losing a first round in their case against the party in November last year.

Lawyer Dirk Conradie, who is representing Swapo and its secretary general in the case in which the legality of the party's November 2017 congress is being questioned, has asked the deputy sheriff of the High Court for the Oshakati district to attach movable property belonging to Swapo members Mirjam Shituula and Selma Namboga in an effort to raise N$747 374, which is the amount in legal costs that Shitula and Namboga have to pay after suffering a loss in the first round of their case against the party.

In the case, which was filed in November 2018, Shituula and Namboga are asking the court to declare that the ruling party's congress in November 2017 and the election of its leadership at the congress are unlawful and unconstitutional or invalid.

They are also asking the court to set aside the congress, and the result of elections held during the congress.

Shituula and Namboga tried to have the ruling party's extraordinary congress in November last year stopped as well, but that attempt failed in the High Court when judge Thomas Masuku ruled that they should have joined parties with an interest in the matter as respondents in the case when they instituted legal action against Swapo and its secretary general, Sophia Shaningwa.

The number of respondents cited in the case has since that ruling increased to 764, and now includes party president Hage Geingob, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah and Marco Hausiku and others in the Swapo leadership. Judge Masuku's ruling also left Shituula and Namboga with a costs order against themselves. Swapo's legal costs in the first phase of the case were initially calculated to amount to N$1,56 million, but that amount was lowered to N$747 374 by a taxation master of the High Court in June.

The case was scheduled to be heard on Friday, but was instead postponed for two weeks, after the court was informed that Swapo and Shaningwa wanted to ask for the case to be put on hold until Shituula and Namboga have paid the taxed legal costs, and a guarantee has been given that they would also be able to pay future legal costs.

President Geingob was elected as Swapo Party president at the November 2017 congress. Geingob supporters Nandi-Ndaitwah, Shaningwa and Hausiku were elected as vice president, secretary general and deputy secretary general of the party, respectively, while Geingob supporters were also elected to the majority of positions on the party's central committee. Shituula, who is a retired primary school teacher and coordinator of a Swapo branch in the Oshakati East area, and Namboga, who is a hairdresser and Swapo district coordinator in the Oshakati area, are claiming that the November 2017 congress "was improperly, irregularly and unlawfully constituted", since 118 persons who were not entitled to be delegates or to vote at the congress attended the congress as voting delegates.

They are also alleging that some of the persons who were not entitled to be among the 768 delegates at the congress stood for positions on the central committee and were elected to positions on the CC, and that all of the elections that took place at the congress "were fundamentally flawed and indeed unlawful". In affidavits filed at the court in April, the secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League, Ephraim Nekongo, Swapo Party Women's Council secretary Eunice Ipinge, and the secretary of the Swapo Party Elders Council, Mukwaita Shanyengana, are all claiming that the application of Shituula and Namboga is not in good faith, or brought for a legitimate purpose. The case has been postponed to 2 August.

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