Independent candidate poses new threat to SWAPO’s hegemony


Political analysts say the idea of an independent candidate which has been popularised by SWAPO Party member, Dr Panduleni Itula, and 27-year-old teacher, Angelina Immanuel, represents an unprecedented threat to the ruling party’s dominance in local politics. 

Immanuel will stand as an independent candidate in the Ondangwa by-elections scheduled for 15 June against SWAPO’s Leonard Negonga, Johannes Martin of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Asser Vincent of the All People’s Party, and Mandume Andreas of the Congress of Democrats, for a seat in the Oshana Regional Council. 
Despite the fact that there are three other candidates from the opposition that will compete in the  June vote, SWAPO seems to be bothered by Immanuel’s candidacy as evidenced by the number of attacks that she has received on social media platforms from ruling party members, most notably Prime Minister, Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, during a recent star rally in Ondangwa.
The sustained attacks on Immanuel while other candidates in the Ondangwa race have largely gone unnoticed has many people wondering what she has done to deserve the wrath of the ruling party and its members as she has denied ever being a SWAPO member. 
UNAM Lecturer, Ndumba Kamwanyah, said Immanuel’s candidacy was significant because of her personal appeal as a youth with a different and independent ideology/agenda than the usual party politics. 
“In that way she is an outsider without party politic baggage in the sense that she is free to articulate what she stands for without the usual party constraints. She seems to come from nowhere, and that makes a lot of people very curious about her.”
He said for a young person of her age to just come out of the blue and try to challenge established political parties, more so the ruling party with a liberation struggle history is never heard off in the Namibian context, if not Africa.
Kamwanyah further said the idea of an independent candidate is an anathema to the ruling party because there is fear among most SWAPO Party members and the leadership in particular that independent candidacy may make the party vulnerable in terms of unity and election outcomes.
“It can actually lead to a constitutional crisis at the party level. Even if the SWAPO Party constitution does not provide for a member to run as an independent, how would the party deal with a member standing as an independent? Do you fire them from the party?
“What if the person standing has a large following?  I think that fear is why we are seeing the SWAPO Party so focused on Immanuel’s candidacy. The outcome of her candidacy, especially if she does well, would be a case study for others, including SWAPO Party members, with the same ambitions in the November elections or next year during the regional and local elections,” Kamwanyah opined.  
Political analyst, Professor Henning Melber, told the Windhoek Observer that Immanuel’s candidacy was significant in that she stands as a young woman independent from any party. 
He said that her candidacy sets precedence in that if she performs well, more of the younger generation, who are disappointed by party politics, might decide to challenge the established party system and campaign as independent candidates in a local environment they are coming from and therefore having some appeal to the electorate. 
Melber said other political parties have proved that they are not a major threat to SWAPO, since they have failed to lure voters from the ruling party.
“Independent candidates with a local support base are considered to be closer to segments of the people and might mobilise votes among a frustrated potential electorate (especially in the younger generations), who otherwise might not vote at all. This would dent the authority of SWAPO as the dominant party,” Professor Melber said. 
He said the support that Immanuel has from peers such as Job Amupanda underlines that most born frees consider independent candidates as a potential alternative to the established and anchored system. 
“It is a sign that the loyalties rooted in the historical legacy and the patriotic narrative of the struggle generations becomes less effective among those who were not part of the anti-colonial resistance. As the established hegemonic party, SWAPO considers this a much bigger risk than other smaller parties, who over the years have not been able to attract a considerable number of voters.”
Ondangwa residents, who spoke to the Windhoek Observer this week, expressed mixed feelings about Immanuel’s chances of winning the upcoming by-election. 
A resident, who refused to be identified, said Immanuel was an inspiring candidate whom she would vote for. 
“The foundation of a quality leader begins at an early age. I regard Angelina Immanuel to be a great figure and she is inspiring young people not to sleep on the opportunities, but to go for what they would like to be. I will definitely vote for Angelina and I would like her to win this upcoming election.”
Another resident, who only identified herself as Shikongo, said she considers Immanuel a rare gem and a great young leader. 
 “Each and every one has been created for a purpose to serve in the world, and in Angelina’s case that is standing in the Ondangwa by-election. I think that’s what she has been meant for. It is rare to find a young person that can take part in such things, therefore I am proud of her and I know that she is a great young upcoming leader that will bring changes in our town. I will surely vote for her.”
Another resident said Immanuel deserves praises for being a very strong woman, who is intelligent, innovative and fascinating. 
“We are the mothers of the republic and we have to prove to the public that women can do incredible things in our country through our unique leadership skills that lies within us. Keep it up Angelina we will definitely vote for you.” 
However, one resident said Ondangwa with all its challenges needs a leader who is experienced. 
“What experience does Angelina have in terms of being a leader? We don’t want disappointments at all; we really need somebody who can fulfil activities or tasks of this town. Angelina must do something of her level and let those with experience compete.  For me, I don’t prefer a young person to lead the nation due to lack of experience.”


The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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