Divisions amongst SWAPO councillors in Okahandja continue unabated with allegations that former Deputy Mayor, Sophia Upithe, is being side-lined by her fellow party councillors.
In an interview with the Windhoek Observer on Wednesday, Upithe accused SWAPO councillors in the town of working with members of the opposition to the detriment of the party’s unity. Upithe said SWAPO Councillor, Hileni Iita, surprisingly nominated Popular Democratic Movement (PDM)’s Councillor, Sylvia Karuuombe, as the third member of the town’s management committee at her expense. Karuuombe’s nomination is said to have been seconded by United Democratic Front (UDF) Councillor Frederick Shimanda.
Karuuombe was sworn in as a member of the town’s management committee on Wednesday by Magistrate Khaepriums Swartz.
Upithe charged that SWAPO councillors, led by Mayor Johannes ‘Congo’ Hindjou, deliberately excluded her from the nomination process after changing dates several times without her knowledge. The former deputy mayor said SWAPO councillors usually caucus before nominations, but that was not done this time around. “They went to the magistrate and changed dates from the original date of 12 April,” Upithe claimed before accusing Hindjou and the other SWAPO councillors of having a hidden agenda.
“The mayor never called me, but the other councillor’s came together and agreed on a date, which is wrong because everything that we do must be done as a collective. The mayor always says that he is a team player, but we are not working as a team which means that they have their own agenda.”
Contacted for comment, Hindjou accused Upithe of being economical with the truth. “Upithe must start being truthful for once. She claims that she is born again so she must be honest and stop blaming me for everything; I need to focus on delivering services to the people of Okahandja,” Hindjou said.
He explained that SWAPO has five out of the seven councillors in Okahandja of whom two were sworn in as mayor and deputy mayor while the other two councillors were sworn in as members of the management committee.
“So since Upithe was not available we had to nominate someone else from another political party so that council business can move on. We have a lot of work to do for the residents of Okahandja, she must join the others and pull together in one direction. We want to start serving the people of Okahandja, but without the management committee there was nothing we could do.”
The mayor said the proposed date of 12 April was very far for them as council business had been at a standstill. “On two occasions, she was invited and she was not available, but council business need to continue. She must not play games at the expense of our people. I don’t understand why Upithe wants to hold the council hostage. We could not keep on postponing the nominations because of one person. We need to deliver service to our people.”
Hindjou also denied accusations that he had unilaterally changed the dates for the nomination and swearing in ceremony for the management committee member. “The mayor doesn’t arrange these meetings; I am only invited just like everybody else. I even called her (Upithe), but she doesn’t pick up my calls or reply to my text messages.”
Divisions amongst the SWAPO Party councillors in Okahandja are nothing new.
In February, the councillors disregarded a directive from SWAPO Party Secretary General, Sophia Shaningwa, to demote Hindjou and elevate Upithe to the position of mayor. Ironically Upithe was nominated by Karuuombe for the position of mayor and was seconded by Shimanda, but she refused to accept the nomination on the grounds that it was made by an opposition councillor instead of a SWAPO member.