NAMIBIA: Swapo Councillors still in dark

THE four Windhoek city councillors, who are still waiting for their reinstatement letters from the Swapo Party after being suddenly withdrawn by the Swapo Khomas regional executive last week and then assured they could return to their positions, might be kept in suspense until after a special City Council meeting scheduled for Friday.

The Namibian has reliably learnt that the City Council's remaining six Swapo councillors will have a majority to vote in favour of renewing the contract of the municipality's Chief Executive Officer, Niilo Taapopi, for another five-year term.

The four withdrawn councillors were against a simple reappointment of Mr Taapopi, but rather wanted the post to be advertised to have a choice of candidates and more transparency in the whole process, a source close to the Windhoek municipality said yesterday.

Mayor Matheus Shikongo, who received his withdrawal letter on Friday – three days after Councillors Dr Björn von Finckenstein, Linnea Shaetonhodi and Hileni Ilonga – is said to have supported advertising  Taapopi's post. This was also favoured by the five opposition party councillors.

This would have given a comfortable majority of nine town councillors against Taapopi's contract renewal compared to only six in favour, the source told The Namibian. The City Council has 15 members and Swapo holds ten seats.

With the four Swapo members withdrawn by the ruling party, the special council meeting for Friday would tip the balance of those in favour of Taapopi's contract renewal without the advertising process to a six-to-five majority, according to the source.

The reinstatement letters promised by Swapo Secretary General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana last Friday at an emergency meeting might only come next week.

Iivula-Ithana told the ousted Mayor at that meeting the withdrawal had been carried out unprocedurally and allegedly without consultation with the national Swapo leadership.

All four councillors are reinstated with immediate effect," Iivula-Ithana said at Friday's meeting. She also said that reinstatement letters would be sent out the same afternoon. This has not happened.

I have no letter yet, Mayor Shikongo told The Namibian yesterday afternoon.

Iivula-Ithana, who would not comment on the matter on Tuesday, again refused to comment yesterday. I will talk to the media about this at a point, she told The Namibian.

Swapo insiders said yesterday that Iivula-Ithana had a long meeting with Taapopi and the Swapo Khomas regional executive on Saturday to discuss the situation, which has left Swapo with egg on its face.

Meanwhile, the leader of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) has condemned the ousting of Swapo councillors. A Swapo district official at Rehoboth and a councillor at Walvis Bay were also ousted last month.

Swapo is undermining democracy with such withdrawals from local authorities, said RDP president Hidipo Hamutenya yesterday.

Is Mr Taapopi untouchable? Is it a crime if a party member differs in opinion? Swapo behaves as if people in public positions are paid by Swapo, he said when asked to comment.

The NamWater boss (Dr Vaino Shivute) was re-appointed recently but the post was advertised and he went through an interview process. Executives of pubic institutions, including municipalities, should be re-assessed, including the Windhoek Chief Executive, Hamutenya said.

Referring to rumours that the Swapo councillors had been withdrawn because of alleged sympathies with the RDP, Hamutenya said Swapo's actions against its town councillors made it look as if the RDP was a criminal organisation one should not talk to.

Political opponents are not regarded as enemies in civilised societies, he added.

The Namibian

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