The Swapo Party Women’s Council has not held its congress to elect new members – more than one month after they failed to meet on 7 December 2021.
According to the Swapo constitution, the women’s council was supposed to meet on 7 December 2021 to elect a secretary, a deputy secretary, members of the central committee and the national executive committee.
As a result of the failure to elect new leaders and in the absence of an extension for those whose terms expired in December last year, the council relies on regional structures.
The leaders whose term ended last year were elected in December 2016 for five years.
Those whose terms ended are secretary Eunice Ipinge and her deputy Francina Kahungu.
According to the Swapo constitution, the women’s council secretary and her deputy report to the council’s central committee and the national executive committee.
The central committee elects the national executive to oversee the council’s day-to-day operations.
All the members of these organs – the central committee and the national executive committee – are elected during the women’s council congress, which did not take place.
Swapo Party sources told The Villager that Ipinge was always unavailable after leaving parliament and taking up a post with an international women’s body outside Namibia.
Ipinge is the president of the Pan African Women’s Organisation (Pawo). She was appointed in February 2020 during the Pawo’s 10th congress in Windhoek. Pawo is a specialized agency of the African Union.
The sources said that Ipinge failed to provide leadership for one of Swapo’s most influential wings.
Kahungu, who is a City of Windhoek councillor, sources further said, cannot lead a complex Swapo wing such as the women’s council.
Although Kahungu is currently posting campaign material on her social media, there is no date for the congress shown. On 31 December 2021, Kahungu also posted a message on her Facebook page and signed off as the Swapo Women’s Council deputy secretary despite the failure of a congress to take place on 7 December.
Efforts to contact Kahungu on Sunday were fruitless.
The Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa’s phone rang and went unanswered. She did not respond to a message sent via WhatsApp, although she blue-ticked it.
The recently expired women’s central committee source said the failure to hold congress has created a Swapo constitutional crisis.
“This has never happened before in the history of Swapo to have one of its top structures not having its elected leadership, not even when we were refugees in the war zone in exile in Zambia, Tanzania or Angola.
“It shows you how deep the crisis in Swapo is at the moment. How can the party’s top leadership go on their annual leave with this crisis?”
The source further said that current leadership allow this to happen because they ignore the party activities.
“The president is just focusing on government activities. Now the party is falling apart. Where is the Political Bureau? Where is the Central Committee? Where are all the top Swapo leaders? They were all on leave enjoying their holidays while the party was dying,” the source said.
Another source said Ipinge does not qualify to chair the congress because her term expired and none in the entire leadership elected in 2016 qualifies too.
Since congresses are Swapo statutory activities, no party organ can postpone the event.
Other members who also asked not to be named said not even the Covid-19 pandemic could have caused the postponement.
They said the country held local and regional authority elections during Covid-19 and that the party had a virtual congress to amend its constitution to ban future independent candidates from contesting.
“This was a response to Panduleni Itula, who contested the 2019 presidential election while the party had President Hage Geingob as the party’s official candidate.
“They should have used the same format for SPWC Congress. Then delegates just come to congress to vote.
“We now have an illegitimate NEC and CC organizing an SPWC Congress. This is crisis management,” they said.
There is a worry among those who spoke to The Villager that those whose terms expired and were not extended by the Swapo Central Committee might carry out activities without approval.
If that happens, it is likely to throw the party into further crisis because whatever activity they might engage in could be challenged in court by aggrieved members.
There is a suggestion that the Swapo Central Committee should meet urgently to elect an interim team to organize and then convene a congress.
“The postponement of the SPWC congress has complicated matters further because the party is expected to hold all 14 regional conferences ahead of the congresses of Swapo Elders Council and Swapo Youth League. They are all expected to be in place ahead of the watershed congress of the party in November this year,” the concerned Swapo members said.
The Swapo Party congress is expected to elect 56 out of the 84 central committee members, the top four positions of the party – the president, vice president, secretary-general, and deputy secretary-general).
One of those elected will then run for state presidency in 2024 since Geingob cannot run for a third term.