Kuzeeko Tjitemisa & Albertina Nakale
Swapo has lost significant support in some key constituencies in Wednesday’s regional council and local authority elections according to results released yesterday.
The ruling party, which won 112 of the 121 constituencies in 2015, is unlikely to repeat the same feat this time around after losing some ground to the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) in Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, while the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) also dealt the liberation movement a major blow in the south.
Both declared and provisional results yesterday indicated Swapo has lost its grip on local authorities in Keetmanshoop, Windhoek, Mariental, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund, highlighting the declining popularity of the party that successfully led the country’s anti-apartheid struggle. The ruling party also lost some constituencies in Kunene, Hardap and Zambezi regions.
Political commentator Graham Hopwood said by the looks of things Swapo has done well in its traditional strongholds of the central north and the two Kavango regions but has lost ground in much of the rest of the country.
“Many local authorities now have no party in overall control including previous bastions for Swapo like Lüderitz and Oranjemund,” he said.
He said LPM was the biggest winner in the south while the IPC impressed at the coast.
“I haven’t yet seen enough results from Khomas but Swapo has held on in some constituencies like Khomasdal and Katutura East even though their vote share has reduced below 40% – because the opposition vote is divided among a number of parties and candidates,” he said.
The ruling party managed to win Moses //Garoeb, Tobias Hainyeko, Katutura East as well as Windhoek West where its candidate Emma Muteka narrowly won by three votes against IPC’s Jacobus Visagie. Windhoek East went to IPC, while Windhoek Rural was snapped up by LPM.
In the south, LPM secured victories in both Keetmanshoop Urban and Rural constituencies, Karasburg East and Berseba, while Swapo retained !Nami#nus, Karasburg West and Oranjemund.
Swapo could, however, not regain Walvis Bay Urban, while it lost Walvis Bay Rural and Swakopmund – all three to IPC candidates.
On the official opposition, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Hopwood said in general the PDM has not made much ground, but it has performed well in Kunene and this may result in the region falling from Swapo’s grasp.
He said while Swapo has struggled to restore the support it lost in the 2019 national elections, the opposition field remains divided among a number of viable parties. “These parties are strong in certain regions but have yet to achieve an overall national presence,” he said.
“From the results I am seeing now it does look like the Swapo vote has consolidated in the Khomas region with most Katutura constituencies still backing the ruling party.”
Another political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah said the results seem like there was a referendum on the ruling party, compared to the landslide victories in past elections.
“The party has lost some control in key constituencies especially in urban areas, so that I think is really a referendum on Swapo,” he said.
Kamwanyah said the biggest winner in Wednesday’s vote was the LPM which he said performed well in the south. “Yes, people may say LPM’s win is from the tribally aggrieved. But it is because LPM has a very well-crafted message that targets the issues affecting the people in the south and their needs,” he said.
Also, he said, the same can be said about IPC, which he said performed very well, suggesting a major shift in voters’ support.
“We are seeing that people are no more loyal to political parties especially to the party that liberated the country, but people are more willing to vote for parties that they think will bring tangible outcomes in their lives,” he said.
“Judging from the fact that IPC is only four months old, one can say it has performed quite well especially in capturing major urban centres. Swapo will still be on top even though their support will be rural-based,” he said.
Another commentator Professor Nico Horn said he expected Swapo’s overall performance to hover around 60%. “What I can say is that Swapo got close to 60% and the IPC 22%. The problem is that the IPC votes are much lower than expected,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hopwood believes the recent killing of Namibian fishermen by the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) provoked a protest vote in the Zambezi region where the previously dominant Swapo lost four of the eight constituencies and three seats on the Katima Mulilo town council.
Kamwanyah on the other hand attributed the statement made by presidency press secretary Alfredo Hengari in calling out planned protests against the BDF killings as “pointless” since the two governments were already seized with the matter, as a major factor.
“I think the statement by the press secretary on the ‘pointless’ protests of the killing contributed to the fall of the Zambezi region. Swapo nor the President distanced themselves from that statement. I think they paid for that,” he noted.