A STORM is brewing around Simeon Hipangwa, a retired teacher and headman of the Okambebe village in the Ohangwena Region, after he was recorded declaring his village a “no-go area” for political parties other than from the ruling Swapo Party.
A local activist for the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC), who identified himself as Shangeshapwako, telephoned the headman to notify him about a planned IPC campaign activities taking place in the area on Saturday.
The telephonic conversation was recorded and the audio was uploaded on social media, attracting criticism from Facebook and WhatsApp users.
Some felt that it was improper to record the conversation without the headman’s consent, while others are of the opinion that the headman deserved the exposure.
In the audio, Hipangwa claims that he does not know what IPC is.
“It is a political party founded by Panduleni Itula,” said Shangeshapwako.
“Such a party does not have members in my village,” responded Hipangwa.
Shangeshapwako retorted saying that he is himself an IPC member and he is an Okambebe resident.
“I only know Swapo, the party that liberated this country,” said Hipangwa.
He eventually yielded, but inserted a caveat: “Go ahead [with your campaign activities] but make sure that you do not cause trouble in the village.”
IPC’s national mobiliser, Stephen Mvula, said that as a retired teacher, Hipangwa cannot claim ignorance.
“He was simply trying to abuse his position. He is free to be a member or supporter of a party of his choice, but he knows very well that he was contacted in his capacity as village headman, a position that demands political neutrality,” said Mvula.
He added that Hipangwa, who is a leading member of Swapo in the area, is actually tarnishing the name of Swapo “by presenting Swapo leaders as people who know democracy, people who know the law, but who do not care about democracy nor care about the law.”
The Okambebe village falls under the Oukwanyama Traditional Authority (OuTA).
OuTA chairperson, senior traditional councillor George Nelulu, said that he was not aware of the controversy caused by one of his junior leaders.
“That is unfortunate. Traditional leaders are not allowed to discriminate when it comes to political parties,” he said, adding “The Constitution, which is our supreme law, is very clear. It guarantees freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom of movement. Traditional leaders have no right, whatsoever, to act in favour or against any political movement. We allow them all to campaign and to do so in an orderly and peaceful manner.”