Namibia: Unemployment Worries Oshakati East

A RECENT poll of 980 eligible voters in the Oshakati East constituency revealed that unemployment is the most concerning social issue with regards to the upcoming by-election.

The opinion poll, which was conducted by SoMa Marketing a week ago, posed two questions to the group of voluntary participants to find out who they would vote for, and which issues were the most important for them.

SoMa Marketing is a data-based Namibian marketing and polling company.

The constituency's by-election is slated for this Saturday at Oshakati.

Four hundred seventy five (48,47%) of the respondents surveyed ranked unemployment as the most concerning issue.

For the 457 voters aged between 18-30, the largest group surveyed, unemployment was the priority concern for 53,85% (246) of them.

Local political commentator Indileni Iipinge said unemployment in Namibia affects mainly young people, and with nearly half of the country's population consisting of young people, their high level of concern is justified.

"It is the same case with the voting population in most constituencies, and it's therefore possible that unemployment could also be the biggest challenge among the voting population, especially young people," he said.

Mismanagement and corruption ranked second among the respondents, with 18% choosing it as the most important. The poll results indicate that this group is least likely to support the incumbent Swapo party at the region's upcoming by-elections.

Despite these concerns, the results of the poll indicate that most participants would still vote for Swapo candidate Abner Shikongo. Shikongo, a retired education inspector, is the most popular candidate, with 55% of respondents indicating they would vote for him.

Although the poll sampled a mere 5% of the 18 400 eligible voters in that constituency, Iipinge said this could be sufficient to make a prediction.

"Given the voter turnout of 33% in the previous election in 2015, 5% of eligible voters could be sufficient to make a prediction on the upcoming election," he observed.

He was also not surprised that the poll determined most eligible voters would vote for the Swapo candidate, as the 2015 results confirm the party's support in the constituency.

"Ninety five percent of the votes were in favour of the ruling party, which is confirmation of Swapo's political support. Previous data would, therefore, direct the current political environment. However, the additional factor of the independent candidate should be seriously taken into account this time around," he noted.

Iipinge added that this is the first time that an independent candidate is taking part in the constituency's election.

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah echoed some of Iipinge's sentiments, stating that he was not surprised by the strong Swapo support, as the constituency's voters cast their vote more on allegiance.

"The northern regions are very Swapo-oriented. It's linked to the historical measures of Swapo, and it's mirroring the previous results," he said.

"So, it is not what the party is doing, and it is not the bread and butter issues affecting them. It's just about that history of freedom."

Kamwanyah explained that analysts generally assumed younger voters would not have an affinity for Swapo because they are so far removed from the issues of the liberation struggle.

"We are scratching our heads as to what is happening to a generation that has no relation to the struggle, except their parents. We thought the younger generation would vote differently than their parents, but it's emerging that in fact they don't vote differently," he stated.

Based on the poll results, independent candidate Fiina Sheehama is the third-most popular candidate amongst the respondents, with 17,16% (168) votes. Second-most popular was Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate Kamati Teophilus with 19,41% (190) of the respondents' support.

The South West Africa National Union (Swanu), Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) and Congress of Democrats (CoD) each drew less than 3% of the votes, with a combined total of 82 votes.

Despite the low support, Swanu candidate Rebecca Kambayi was the only one to see the majority of her support come from older voters.

"It could be that this candidate has played some role in the constituency's development in the past. However, given the historical fact that Oshakati East is still a Swapo stronghold, the support for the Swanu candidate would hence be minimal, and wouldn't make a noticeable dent in the election outcome," Iipinge reasoned.

"Swanu is older than Swapo itself, so those older voters still remember it as a party that helped them understand the liberation struggle. It could mean that they could be dissatisfied with Swapo and they see no alternatives among younger parties," Kamwanyah added.

The seat for constituency councillor became vacant after the death of Lotto Kuushomwa in May, after he collapsed during a National Council session.

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