Windhoek — At least five by-elections will be held within 90 days following the resignations of Swapo-affiliated regional councillors who opted to contest parliamentary seats on the party ticket in the upcoming National Assembly election.
The by-elections were automatically triggered by the Electoral Act, which compels aspiring parliamentarians and those employed in the public service to first resign from their positions before running for office.
The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) cited section 77 (4) of the Electoral Act, 5 of 2014 that states,
"A person may only be nominated as a candidate on a list of candidates if the person - (a) qualifies to be elected as a member of the National Assembly by virtue of Article 46 (1) of the Namibian Constitution."
Five of the 16 Swapo MP hopefuls, who resigned this week, include regional councillors like Margareth Mensah-Williams of Khomasdal North, Hilma Nicanor of Keetamsnhoop Urban, Hafeni Ndemula (Walvis Bay Urban), Modestus Amutse (Oshikuku) and Phillipus Katamelo of Gobabis constituency.
The 16 are part of the Swapo list of candidates that was presented to the ECN yesterday.
Apart from the five regional councillors, local authority leaders Katrina Shimbulu (Oshakati), Verna Sinimbo (Rundu), Maria Elago (Swakopmund) and Helalia Mukapuli (Lüderitz) also resigned.
Other notable resignations include that of National Youth Council executive chairperson Mandela Kapere, Oshakati CEO Werner Iita, education officials Veno Kauaria and Nono Katjingisiua. Teacher Bertha Dinyando-Nyambe, former education inspector Kletus Karondo and Swapo central committee member Jennelly Matundu have also resigned.
Of the 17 Swapo MP hopefuls that were affected by the provision in the Electoral Act, only one opted out to continue as a local authority councillor.
Fransina Kahungu who is a City of Windhoek councillor withdrew her name from the Swapo list. She was 91 on the Swapo list of candidates for the National Assembly election.
"I just decided to keep my job [on the Windhoek City Council]. I decided to be here for now and serve at this level for now. For me to say I am not available, does not mean I am not available forever. Remember, this came at very short notice and I was in a state of confusion, so I decided to keep my job," Kahungu told New Era yesterday.
Kahungu thanked the party for having trust in her until she made it on the list.
However, she said she is available for any responsibility or job that Swapo will assign her, adding that she will continue to campaign and work for the party and country at any given time.
Approached for comment, Amutse said he did not want to betray the trust of those who elected him onto the Swapo list.
He said section 77 of the Electoral Act of 2014 is nothing new.
"Some of us knew this could happen. Being a councillor, I knew that any instructions could come up. I am psychologically ready and I don't regret having taken that decision to quit and rather confirm the wish of participants of the Swapo Party electoral college who said 'Modestus, we want you to be part of the list'," Amutse said.
He said he is confident that Swapo will make it in the election, adding that for him it's not a matter of position, but about respecting the wishes of those who want him to serve the nation for the next coming five years.
He added that he was confident where he was as chairperson of the regional council, as he had good working relations with fellow councillors.
He served for nine years as a councillor and four years as chairperson of the management committee in Omusati.
"I will miss the excellent relationships we had with honourable members and the staff as we worked as a team. We have made achievements in the region. The able cadres will be able to drive the projects on in terms of agricultural development, rural electrification and water supply. We have done our part as political office-bearers. Our job is to resign and the administrators are to do their job," he said.
Kapere, however, feels section 77 of the Electoral Act had some impacts on those affected.
In fact, he said, it has "a real impact" and it's regrettable that the interpretation of the law has changed.
"At this stage, when you are still campaigning and you are told that you need to make the choice, was a bit of inconsistency because the rules in 2014 were differently interpreted, and now this time around they are again differently interpreted," he said.
Kapere said this has the potential to create a bit of instability in some institutions, adding that like now at the National Youth Council they have to quickly convene an extraordinary representative council in order to elect somebody.
"I can imagine what will happen at the National Council where you have a chairperson. What happens to Walvis Bay and Gobabis where councillors have to resign all of a sudden?" he said.
But he said he is committed to the objective of making sure Swapo delivers on its mandate, adding that he wants the party to win all 96 seats in the National Assembly.