Windhoek - Namibian President and Swapo candidate for the election slated for November 27, Dr Hage Geingob, is gunning for the youths vote in a bid to consolidate chances for a last term in office.
Namibian youths and first time voters will constitute a significant portion of those expected to cast their ballots this month.
The Namibian campaign trail reached home stretch last week with Geingob visiting the 14 regions of the country, while his closest rival, Panduleni Itula, campaigning on an independent ticket, has also intensified his quest of appeal in most regions.
The other candidates, including official opposition leader McHenry Venaani, are battling to stay relevant while the Landless People Movement (LPM) and Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) are pushing for an ear from the Southern African Development Community Election Observer Mission (SEOM).
President Geingob charmed youths in Windhoek last week through a candid engagement with Namibian young people from different persuasions aiming to convince them to vote for him despite a plethora of challenges facing the country.
“We are in a Namibian house where people argue, agree and disagree but in the end Namibia is all we have so we need to hold each other’s hands and find solutions to our problems. We have made tremendous progress in infrastructure development. We are struggling with housing, in fact, it’s a sore to the eye that our people still live in shacks and of course we need to deal with corruption but these will be done if you give me another chance,” Geingob said.
Geingob told Namibian youths that while he understands their frustrations with the ongoing economic recession which has seen graduates failing to break into the job market as well struggle to access loans to finance their business ideas, the way forward was to work together and put differences aside for the betterment of their country.
“I believe we are all Namibians regardless of where we come from. I work with everyone and I have appointed people I never knew before to work with me because I look at potential that individuals have. I know there is talk of corruption going on but we need to allow the law to take its course. The law has a long arm and slow sometimes but it is imperative that we respect the separation of powers which is a core of my governance policy,” he said.
While interfacing with the youths, President Geingob also acknowledged that Namibia’s inequality was glaring and needed urgent remedies. He called on Namibian youths to be innovative and be keen to create jobs for themselves through adopting artificial intelligence instead of waiting for jobs.
“I noticed that our challenges for unemployment have a historical entrenchment where we all want to be bosses or want someone to give us a job but the economy today calls for innovation where we create jobs and be innovative enough,” Geingob said.
The Namibian President also called for frank discussion on issues relating to increasing abortions among the youths as well as the recognising of the marginalised communities, including the lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities.
“We need to have frank debate about these issues. Sensitive as they are, but these are issues that are affecting a lot of people. Perhaps if we look at ways of having these issues recognised formally, then people will not abort. I am calling for an open discussion on these and many other issues affecting the youth,” he said.
He also took time to explain the ruling party’s election manifesto in-depth to the Namibian people.
Meanwhile, Namibia is expecting election observer missions from the African Union, European Union, Commonwealth and other individual countries invited by the Electoral Commission of Namibia. SADC launched its electoral observer mission, SEOM, in Windhoek this week.
SEOM gave a seal of approval on Namibia’s state of preparedness to host the presidential and parliamentary elections slated for November 27.
Launching the mission, SEOM head and Zimbabwean Minister of Defence and War Veterans, Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, said their assessment was that Namibia was ready for elections.
She added that SEOM would continue to engage all political stakeholders, civil society as well as role players to the election in making sure that Namibia meets the laid down SADC guidelines and principles governing democratic elections.
She also called for trust on the SEOM engagement after coming under severe pressure from opposition politicians and civil society on whether the regional bloc had the credibility needed to observe a credible, free and fair elections following events of the past where it had been under criticism for early endorsement of the process.
“I would like to emphasise that we are here as SADC, not as individual countries, and our job here is observe and not interfere with the internal processes. We have taken note of all the claims raised by players and we have shared them with the Namibian government. I must emphasise that we will stationed in all the 14 regions of Namibia and we will attend all the election rallies for all political parties,” she said.
Muchinguri-Kashiri said SEOM guidelines of engagement were primarily to make sure that Namibia as a member state signatory to the guidelines on elections in the region conformed to the rules and regulations on such as well as strengthen the democratic processes of the country.
“To strengthen this shared democratic vision, SADC has developed a number of strategic instruments and mechanisms for the promotion of and consolidation of democracy. The central instrument for assessing elections is the revised principles and guidelines governing democratic elections (2015) which is not only informed by the relevant conventions of the United Nations (UN) such as Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant of Civil Rights, but also the African Union Charter on Democratic Elections and Governance,” she said.
SEOM is coordinated under the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Co-operation chaired by Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and consists of selected members from across the region of different persuasions and political backgrounds.
Muchinguri-Kashiri said the guidelines and monitoring of the process in Namibia would be hinged on full participation of the citizens in the political process, freedom of association, assembly and expression, measures to prevent corruption, bribery, political violence, intimidation and intolerance, equal opportunity for all political parties to state media, respect for values of electoral justice, independence of the judiciary, and civic and voter education, among a few more benchmarks.
Speaking after the launch of SEOM, Swapo secretary-general, Sophia Shanigwa, said the ruling party was happy with the regional bloc’s assessment so far, while the RDP presidential candidate, Mike Kavekotora, said SADC needed to prove its impartiality and less inclination to revolutionary parties.
However, Muchinguri-Kashiri rubbished allegations that the mission supported liberation movement political parties to remain in power, saying SADC goes beyond liberation movements.
She explained that SADC was guided by principles and it abided by those guidelines and not by their own personal or party aspirations.