Media reports continue to erroneously refer to Panduleni Itula as an independent
A news report, under the headline ‘Itula dares Swapo to conclude congress court case on merits’, posted to the website of the The Namibian newspaper on Thursday, 25 July 2019, started off as follows:
“INDEPENDENT presidential candidate Panduleni Itula has challenged the Swapo Party leadership to put on hold a demand that two party members challenging the legality of Swapo’s 2017 congress should pay more than N$700 000 in legal costs.”
- Numerous recent news reports, including the one quoted above, have referred to Panduleni Itula as an ‘independent presidential candidate’ as if it were a fact.
The facts are:
- Panduleni Itula has not been nominated and submitted as an independent presidential candidate at the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN);
- ECN spokesperson Vikitoria Hango on Monday, 29 July 2019, confirmed that no nomination forms for an Itula independent presidential candidacy had been submitted to or received by the ECN to date;
- Hango also stated that the period for submitting the names of nominated candidates for the presidential and National Assembly elections will probably only happen in October 2019, about a month before the late November 2019 elections.
Further complicating Itula’s drive for an independent presidential candidacy is his stated refusal to relinquish his membership of the ruling Swapo Party. To be clear, an independent candidacy in politics is universally understood to be one unaffiliated to any political party or movement, thus, by hanging on to his Swapo Party membership, Itula cannot claim to be an independent candidate.
Furthermore, in a recent blog post on independent candidates, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) noted that “it should be remembered that it’s not easy to get nominated as an independent candidate for the presidential elections – according to the 2014 Electoral Act an independent candidate needs 500 signed-up supporters in each region to be able to stand”.
In light of this, and as the ECN’s Vikitoria Hango has indicated, Itula has not submitted information regarding his support base to the ECN yet, so as it stands, it is highly questionable and unclear whether he will even reach the legal threshold in order to be officially recognised as an ‘independent presidential candidate’.
Thus, at best, Panduleni Itula could at this stage in July 2019 be labeled a prospective independent presidential candidate, as he might fade away in the months leading up to the November 2019 elections.
- Journalists should not be wrongly labelling or ascribing positions to people, especially during a highly fraught and sensitive period such as the run-up to major elections;
- Journalists should not unquestioningly accept the utterances and posturing of politicians, but should seek to verify the facts of a matter with relevant authorities;
- A pandering to the flawed or untruthful claims of politicians and their supporters can only lead to audience confusion, as appears to be the case surrounding the ‘independent presidential candidate’ Panduleni Itula, and spreads misunderstanding of the notion of an independent political candidacy.
The article on The Namibian website can be accessed through the following link: https://www.namibian.com.na/186378/archive-read/Is-Namibia-Ready-For-an-Independent-Presidential-Candidate
The IPPR blog post on independent candidates can be accessed through the following link: https://ippr.org.na/blog/independent-candidates-mostly-hype/