Namibia: Swapo Yet to Unravel Itula Puzzle

SWAPO secretary general Sophia Shaningwa says the party still needs more time to find ways on how to deal with its member, Panduleni Itula, who has been registered to contest the upcoming presidential elections as an independent candidate.

Shaningwa said the party has so far failed to figure out under "whose flag" Itula was going to contest next month's presidential elections, hence they are requesting more time to find out.

She made the remarks on Friday after confirming party president Hage Geingob as Swapo's presidential candidate for the upcoming elections at the last minute.

The nomination of candidates to participate in next month's presidential and National Assembly elections ended on Friday, with 11 presidential candidates confirmed by the Electoral Commission of Namibia.

Shaningwa and several other senior party leaders have been threatening to charge and expel Itula for declaring himself an independent presidential candidate, arguing that his actions were contradicting Swapo's election rules and procedures.

However, about seven months after those threats were made, Shaningwa on Friday said she had not figured out how Itula has been campaigning for the elections.

She could also not say with certainty whether Itula was indeed a member of Swapo.

She rather blamed journalists, branding them cowards for not investigating "on whose flag" Itula was standing.

"I was very disappointed by the journalists. I whispered to some of you to find out on whose flag the independent candidate is standing (sic). I didn't know that journalists are such cowards.

"I expected one of you to find out because I cannot find out. I have been trying to search out on whose flag. And none of you capable journalists could ask this question, now you are asking me. I am not a culprit," she charged.

However, after a series of follow-up questions from journalists on what the party will do to Itula, Shaningwa said they needed more time to deal with the situation, without giving a definite time frame.

"The Swapo Party is a party of discipline; we will deal with the situation. It's none of your business when we will deal with the situation.

"We will deal with the situation. Give me time as a secretary general and an administrator of the party. Give me time to deal with the situation," Shaningwa said.

Those successfully nominated candidates for presidential elections together with Itula and Geingob, are Rally for Democracy and Progress leader Mike Kavekotora, Nudo president Utjiua Muinjangue, APP's Ignatius Shixuameni, PDM's McHenry Venaani, and UDF leader Apius Auchab.

Other candidates are former land reform deputy minister Bernadus Swartbooi representing the Landless People's Movement, Swanu's Tangeni Iijambo, NAmibia Economic Freedon Fighters' Epafras Mukwiilongo and Republican Party's Henk Mudge.

ENC chairperson Notemba Tjipueja said the commission will announce the final list of political parties cleared to contest the parliamentary elections through the Government Gazette next week.

Following the conclusion of the nomination, several political parties participating in the elections are still not satisfied with the manner in which the ECN interpreted the law regarding the nomination of candidates for the National Assembly elections.

The ECN last week issued a directive to all political parties to comply with Article 46 of the Constitution and section 77 of the Electoral Act (Act No. 5 of 2014), which prohibits people who serve in the public service and those who are members of the National Council, regional councils or members of a local authority from being nominated to be elected as members of the National Assembly.

The ECN told politicians and those affected by this regulation to choose to either remain on the list of candidates for the National Assembly elections and gamble for seats, or withdraw from the list to keep their current jobs.

This led to massive resignations by several people who were nominated by their respective political parties.

Fifteen Swapo members resigned from their positions to take a gamble for seats in the upcoming National Assembly elections.

The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) is among the parties which have resisted to comply with the ECN's directive.

PDM parliamentarian Vipua Muharukua said the interpretation by the ECN that people must first resign to be nominated as candidates for the National Assembly elections was wrong.

He noted that people were only supposed to resign from their positions in the public service once successfully elected as members of the National Assembly.

"By saying the law was wrongly interpreted, we are not saying that people must hold two positions. That is wrong. The purpose of Article 47 is to prevent people from holding two positions at the same time, but it does not say that people must resign before an election.

"So, if the person is elected, they now have a period of four months within which to tender their resignation [before the inauguration as members of the National Assembly]," Muharukua reasoned.

He added that his party will not comply with the ECN's request to have their candidates resign before the elections.

"We are waiting for the ECN to finalise the names of candidates. Should they amend our list, we will go to court, and we are going to ask the court to set a precedent," he said.

Rally for Democracy and Progress leader Mike Kavekotora stated that he also has reservations about the implementation of Article 47 of the Constitution and Section 77 of the Electoral Act by the ECN.

Kavekotora added that if the ECN wants to implement the law to the letter, it must also introduce the Voters Verifiable Audit Paper Trails to the electronic voting machines (EVMs), as required by the Electoral Act.

Itula, on the other hand, promised to fight to ensure that the EVMs are not used in the elections next month.

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