Swanu dicing with death

Evilastus Kaaronda
…Internal party fights threatens performance in November elections

Political analysts say recurrent power struggles in the South West Africa National Union (Swanu) could be its death knell come November’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

The country’s oldest political party was further thrown into turmoil last week when two internal factions claimed the Swanu presidency. The faction under the leadership of Charles Katjivirue says it owns the soul of the party, while the one led by former unionist Evilastus Kaaronda claims to be the legitimate leader.

University of Namibia (Unam) political scientist Rui Tyitende says Swanu has been knocking on death’s door for quite some time and its relevance in the Namibian political landscape is dissipating significantly.

Another Unam political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah says the party is not handling internal conflicts in a constructive manner, which is polarising its members and making it difficult to garner the needed support during the forthcoming elections. Kamwanyah says it’s important to understand the root causes of the infighting.

“The root cause of infighting is not following your internal procedures and mechanisms; you will end up with infighting like under which the Swanu party finds itself. “I think the party is in trouble come November elections,” he adds. Kamwanyah further says the internal conflict is a reflection of a leadership vacuum in Swanu which is meant to ensure conflict is handled in a procedural manner, as provided for by the party’s constitution.

Katjivirue and Kaaronda each claim their opposing factions are misrepresenting a recent court settlement. In a letter sent to Katjivirue on Thursday, Kaaronda alleges that Katjivirue made unfounded allegations against him at a media briefing held at the party’s head office on Wednesday. He said the Swanu leadership is not sure what to make of Katjivirue’s media statement and demanded to know where he stands with regards to the High Court order on the extraordinary central committee meeting. “Are you going to meet pursuant to the High Court order or not?” Kaaronda wrote.

Kaaronda and Katjivirue were mandated to meet by 19 June to prepare for an extraordinary central committee meeting. This is after Swanu, under Kaaronda, reached a settlement with Katjivirue and others that nullified all branch meetings held on 22 May and the extraordinary congress held on 21 August 2021 as a violation of Swanu’s constitution. The agreement, signed by both parties, was made an order of court in the presence of their lawyers.

It stated that Kaaronda and Katjivirue were to meet to prepare to call an extraordinary council meeting. However, Katjivirue reports that the settlement is still in dispute and alleged that Kaaronda misinterpreted the court order at their meeting on 19 June. He believes it grants him more authority over the party’s affairs. “Kaaronda and I met at the Swanu office this morning at 10h30. Following his request for an interpretation of the order, Kaaronda remains adamant that his understanding of the court order is correct,” he said.

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