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Hijacking The Will of the People?

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POLICE chief Sebastian Ndeitunga’s threats that they might take over the municipality of Windhoek should not be taken lightly.

Ndeitunga was speaking during police operations to break down shacks and disperse crowds who occupied land illegally at the western end of the capital city.

“The chaos started at the City of Windhoek – and now, it has degenerated to their residents. If they are not careful, we are going to run over that council. And we will govern that council,” Ndeitunga said on Wednesday.

Later the same day, Ndeitunga claimed he had made the remarks in jest. Yet he followed up saying he meant that the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development could take over the administration of the municipality.

Ndeitunga, the inspector general of the national police, has a tendency to run his mouth and, on occasion, utter absurdities. But there is no way he can be considered a master of jest.

Could it have been a Freudian slip on Ndeitunga’s part? Could it possibly stem from chatter in Swapo and the central government – that they wish to usurp the power of opposition parties who Windhoek residents last year gave more combined votes to edge out the ruling party for the first time since independence.

Land grabbing by Namibians desperate for houses or shelter has been going on for more than two decades. Every town in Namibia (except Oranjemund perhaps) has sprawling informal settlements made mainly out of zinc plates.

Every year, municipalities, especially in Windhoek, demolish illegal housing structures set up by desperate people now commonly labelled as land grabbers.

It would seem Ndeitunga would like the public to believe that this is a new trend. His characterisation of the Windhoek City Council is opportunistic is clearly aimed at making justification for the Swapo controlled central government to wrest power from a coalition of opposition parties.

The latest wave of so-called land grabbing is a reminder of the need to urgently get to grips with the housing shortage in all municipalities across Namibia.

For the record, the opposition parties in the Windhoek municipality are not without blame. In fact, The Namibian can conclude that infighting among coalition members labelling themselves ‘Progressive Forces’ encouraged the latest land occupations.

Ndeitunga is right on the score that poor leadership on the part of the governing coalition [Independent Patriots for Change, Affirmative Repositioning, and to a lesser extent Nudo and the Popular Democratic Movement] has confused the city’s bureaucrats.

Apparently ego clashes between IPC president Panduleni Itula and AR chief Job Amupanda have also sent confusing signals to sitting councillors, causing a palpable state of paralysis.

Itula is repeating the mistakes of his former party, Swapo, whose national leaders often usurped the powers of elected councillors. Amupanda, who occupies the ceremonial mayoral position, fails to understand that it is the voters who forced the parties into a coalition to make them work together, nullifying his misguided idea that he has “supreme logic”.

The clashing parties need to set aside their dogmatic approaches, and egos, in order to deliver on their promises in the spirit of compromise and pragmatism that the voting numbers indicate what residents want.

In the long-term, though, politicians at national level should take a hard look at introducing the ward system at local municipal level so that voters choose their leaders directly to ensure accountability and effective delivery on specific, achievable and deadline-driven promises.

Meanwhile, the minister in charge of local government should be warned not to play into Ndeitunga’s misguided calls for the central government to take over the administration of Windhoek.

Doing so would subvert the will of the electorate. Surely the law is not meant to hijack voters’ choices, especially when a municipality is not controlled by the party that administers the central government.

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