Okahandja Mayor, Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou, has been demoted to the position of an regular councillor after an outcry from residents who accused him and his fellow council members of corruption and underhanded dealings.
The Windhoek Observer understands that Hindjou was demoted following a directive from SWAPO Party Secretary General, Sophia Shaningwa, last week.
Hindjou was replaced by his deputy, Sophia Upithe, while Fibeon Uwukhaeb is now the Deputy Mayor.
Ileni Iita is the new management chairperson and Helmi Maruru the second ordinary member.
However, residents are not happy with Shaningwa’s directive as they wanted a complete reshuffle.
Last month, Okahandja residents sent a letter to Shaningwa to intervene and remove the former mayor alleging that Hindjou’s reputation and credibility had been seriously damaged.
“He should be directed to step aside from his current duties as Mayor to an ordinary councillor for his last term,” part of the letter to Shaningwa read.
“We need intervention by our beloved SWAPO Party to safeguard our State Owned Enterprises from potential capturing by the elites in Okahandja by replacing the mayor and address the structural challenges in the district executive.
“We must simply not turn a blind eye on party issues particularly in our town. For the past four years, the work of our councillors only benefited a few with repercussions for all which suffered in the hands of sinless people.
“We cannot sacrifice accountability on the altar of fake leaders, playing their trick card games,” the letter also said.
Last month’s letter was the second to Shaningwa asking her to intervene.
In March, Okahandja residents took to the streets to demonstrate against the mayor and his councillors.
This was after revelations that the town council had sold large portions of undeveloped land from 2012 to 2015 to companies owned by politicians and well-connected individuals who later sold the land at inflated prices.
The residents said they were not happy with the manner in which councillors were managing council affairs over the years, especially when it came to selling land.
Sources, however, told the Windhoek Observer that Shaningwa’s directive to local authorities was in violation of the Local Authorities Act of 1992 which states that regional coordinators should be consulted before such decisions are made.
The coordinators are by law supposed to give suggestions and inputs before the SG can finally make a decision.
Some SWAPO regional coordinators said while they don’t mind Shaningwa’s directive, they have been receiving complaints from communities in their regions.
Otjozondjupa Regional Coordinator, Susan Hikopua, said people in her region were not happy with the decisions made in their constituencies.
She said community members from Okahandja, Grootfontein and Otavi were requesting to be addressed by the SG.
“The people in Okahandja are complaining as to why Upithe was made the mayor seeing that she was also just as involved in shady dealings like the former mayor. I have advised them to go to head office and see the SG,” Hikopua said.
She said the party had initially decided to stick to the status quo, but she was surprised when Shaningwa sent the directive to reshuffle.
“It had been decided that the status quo should remain because if any changes are made it would affect us as a party. I was surprised when I received the letter to reshuffle. I even tried to get hold of the SG before sending it out, but I could not,” Hikopua said.
Omusati Regional Coordinator, Sackey Kayone, said he does not understand the connection between local authorities and the SWAPO SG since he was not consulted before such decisions were made.
“I am not directly affected; the affected people are the local authorities. I have advised them to sit with the relevant people and air out their views if they do not agree. I have also advised that there should be no leadership vacuum as this is going on.”
He said councillors in Outapi proposed changes which were sent to the SG to approve, which she did.
However, Kayone said Ruacana was not accorded that privilege as they were directed on how to go ahead.
Other towns and village councils such as Okahao, Oshikuku and Tsandi remained as they were.
Shaningwa was not available for comment by the time of going to print.