Joseph Ngwawi, Correspondent
Namibia will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on November 27 where President Hage Geingob is seeking a second and final term in office.
Geingob, leader of the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO) Party, will contest against eight other candidates, including Esther Muinjangue of the National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) — the first woman to stand as a presidential candidate in the history of Namibia.
Another notable candidate is a member of SWAPO Party, Panduleni Itula, who is running as an independent.
Itula has refused to resign from SWAPO Party after deciding to contest against Geingob and now risks being expelled from the party.
Other presidential candidates are McHenry Venaani of the main opposition party, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) — formerly called the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA).
The PDM is a coalition of more than 10 small opposition parties.
The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) will be represented by Mike Kavekotora while Ignatius Shixuameni is the All People’s Party (APP) candidate.
The other three candidates are Apius Auchab of the United Democratic Front (UDF), Bernadus Swartbooi representing the Landless People’s Movement, and Tangeni Iijambo of the South West Africa National Union.
Presidential candidates Epafrans Mukwiilongo of the Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters and Henk Mudge of the Republican Party have pulled out of the race and are rallying behind Itula.
Namibia uses a majority system for presidential elections in which the candidate with more than 50 percent of the votes is declared the winner.
In the last election held in 2014 Geingob garnered a commanding 86.7 percent of the vote compared to five percent for Venaani, while the late Hidipo Hamutenya, who was leader of the RDP, came third with 3.4 percent, and then NUDO presidential candidate Asser Mbai gained 1.9 percent.
With regard to elections for the 104-member National Assembly, a total of 15 political parties will take part in the parliamentary poll, according to the Electoral Commission of Namibia.
Of the total 104 seats, 96 are elected through these polls and eight are appointed later by the President.
Namibia uses the Proportional Representation (PR) system for legislative elections.
Under the PR system, each political party submits a list of candidates and then the parties receive seats proportional to their overall share of the national vote.
SWAPO Party is leading a quiet gender revolution under which it has not only committed to filling half of its seats in parliament with women and half with men, but also committed to a “zebra system” for Cabinet, whereby if a minister is a woman, the deputy minister will be a man, and vice versa.
In the last election, SWAPO Party won 86.73 percent of the popular vote and 77 seats, with the DTA (now DPM) getting five, and RDP got three seats.
The APP, UDF, NUDO and Workers Revolutionary Party got two seats each.
SWAPO Party also won 40 of the 42 seats in the second chamber, the National Council, 112 of 121 Regional Councillors, 277 of 378 Local Councillors, and 4 of the 5 seats in the Pan-African Parliament.
According to the ECN, a total of 1,358,468 Namibians have registered to vote at 4,241 polling stations that will be established across the country for this year’s elections.
The number of eligible voters is about 10 percent more than the 1,241,194 that registered for the previous elections in 2014.
Key issues in this election include the consolidation of recent gains in the social sector such as health and education, as well as access to land, job creation and infrastructural development.
An analysis of party manifestos shows that there is a general focus on winning the vote of the poor and the youth.
There is consensus among most of the political parties that the pace of the land redistribution programme needs to be increased.
As a result, most parties are promising an accelerated land acquisition programme, with some committing themselves to the willing-buyer willing-seller principle while others are offering a mixture of land nationalisation and the restitution of ancestral land.
President Geingob said at the centre of SWAPO Party’s development strategy for the next five years will be issues to do with ensuring equitable distribution and utilisation of land, measures to tackle corruption and gender-based violence, and programmes to empower young people.
“The high demand for the delivery of serviced land and housing, especially in our urban and peri-urban areas accentuates the vulnerability of Namibians. The SWAPO Party will act decisively and with greater urgency to address this challenge,” Geingob said in a preamble to the SWAPO manifesto.
SWAPO Party is not the only political party prioritising land reforms.
The APP and NUDO have both used their campaign rallies to promise the electorate that they would use the ongoing land reform process to revive the agricultural sector.
The APP promises to increase local participation in the agricultural economy by encouraging the formation of youth and women cooperatives across the country to take up agricultural projects.
NUDO believes that the Namibian government has not addressed the land issue satisfactorily and that ancestral land claims were never factored into the resettlement programme.
It says the programme resettles unproductive farmers who have little capacity to add to the economy of the country.
The party’s manifesto said a NUDO government would widen the resettlement programme to include those in need of land for agricultural purposes, and urban land resettlement schemes for low-income groups residing in urban areas.
NUDO intends to establish green scheme projects in the Namib Desert — a feat which they linked to the idea of building desalination plants there as well.
Green schemes are an initiative by the Namibian Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry to encourage the development of irrigation-based agricultural production in the country with the aim of increasing the contribution of agriculture to Gross Domestic Product and simultaneously achieving the social development and upliftment of communities.
The PDM has also campaigned on a promise to revolutionise the agriculture sector in Namibia by ensuring that the country has adequate water supplies.
According to Venaani, Namibia is chasing a pie in the sky as far as its efforts to transform its economy through agricultural development and industrialisation are concerned as long as it does not have adequate water supplies.
He said if elected, a PDM government would promote the development of desalination plants along the Atlantic Ocean coast which would supply Namibia with water.
“If we change our strategy and bring water from the sea to the hinterland, we will create the necessary jobs for agriculture,” Venaani said during the launch of the PDM manifesto.
Regional and international elections observers, including those from Sadc are observing the elections in Namibia.
Sadc launched a 53-member observer mission on 18 November which has deployed its members to all the 14 regions of Namibia.
The Sadc Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) to Namibia is headed by Zimbabwean Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister, Cde Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri.
Cde Muchinguri-Kashiri has urged Namibians to conduct their elections in a peaceful manner to ensure socio-economic development and stability.
SEOM is expected to issue a preliminary statement on November 20 and a final one on 29 November.
This is in line with the Sadc Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections, which encourage Member States to promote common political values and systems. — sardc.net