Swapo brings on big guns to win back Walvis

By Jade McClune

IN the run-up to the Walvis Bay Urban Constituency by-election (on Wednesday), the ruling Swapo Party brought out its heavy-hitters recently to shore up its flagging support base at the harbour town ahead of what may prove to be a symbolically crucial vote ahead of the 2020 regional and municipal elections.

The field is split between Swapo’s candidate, Sirie Topulathana, two Swapo members who have registered as independent candidates, Knowledge Ipinge and Kenneth Iilonga, and Richard Hoaeb of the Popular Democratic Movement as the fourth candidate. The Landless People’s Movement is backing Ipinge for the seat.

The by-election at Walvis Bay Urban was triggered by the resignation of regional council chairman Hafeni Ndemula, who has been elected to the National Assembly. The new councillor would only be in office until the elections later this year, but another electoral blow for Swapo in one of its historical strongholds would have symbolic weight and give confidence to the opposition, given the massive drop in Swapo’s support in urban constituencies in November 2019.

Voters in Walvis Bay Urban punished the ruling party at the polls last November, with a massive drop in support for Swapo (down from 88 percent to 46.7 percent in the parliamentary election). In the Presidential poll, President Hage Geingob’s voter support in Walvis Bay Urban similarly seemed to drop off a cliff (from over 90 percent in 2014 to 30.28 percent), while his vote countrywide fell from 92 percent down to 56 percent.

In the first week of January, the ruling party, which has been rocked from its summit to its foundation by the global Fishrot corruption and bribery scandal in the fishing industry that has already led to the arrest of two Cabinet ministers, brought in stalwart Uutoni Nujoma, a party leader assigned to the coastal region.

He told supporters at Walvis Bay that “There is no way you can jump from anywhere, become an independent candidate and rule this country. You are joking.” On Saturday, the ruling party brought on his father, Founding President Sam Nujoma to rally the party faithful in support of their young candidate ahead of Wednesday’s election.

Notably, the elder Nujoma said: “I am delighted that our government is addressing the plight of our fishermen and sea going workers. I am equally happy that now a fair method of allocation of fishing quotas is going to be implemented.

“Let us continue combating the evils of tribalism, sexism, corruption and violence against women and children which aim to subvert our national development agenda. Let us maintain peace, because without peace there is no development.”

He said Sirie Kasisi Topulathana for the past 12 years had worked in the service of the party and the community. She held roles of responsibility in various structures, such as the Youth League (SPYL) and Women’s Council (SPWC) in Erongo Region.

“Among the priority projects that Comrade Sirie will spearhead and implement is the provision of decent housing. This has always been a priority area for the Swapo Party and our government has been working hard through the local authority councils to meet the housing demand of our people.

“In this context, I have been informed that the occupants of Twaloloka have indicated their willingness to be relocated to Farm 37 where the Municipality of Walvis Bay has provided land for back yard shack dwellers and people from Twaloloka to erect their houses.

“Council has also prepared land at Farm 37 for schools, clinics and churches, as soon as services are installed… the incoming Councilor will continue to strengthen the existing relationship with the Shack Dwellers Federation of Namibia and assist where necessary to ensure that they also quickly build houses for their members.”

He further said, “Sirie will undertake other efforts to expedite housing delivery, such as forming smart partnerships with the business corporate in Walvis Bay, such as Namport, Erongo Red, fishing companies and others in order to facilitate the acquisition of land by these companies to build houses for their employees.”

He further said the establishment of a maritime school in Walvis Bay by the University of Namibia is “a welcome development. We thank the local authority for facilitating the allocation of land for this purpose.”  Also, “The impending establishment of a nursing school in Walvis Bay is an equally plausible development and the incoming councilor is ready to assist in whatever way to expedite the opening of the envisaged nursing school.”

Polling stations were set to open from 07h00 until 21h00 Wednesday.