THE reinstated chairperson of the Erongo Regional Council, Ciske Smith-Howard says that Dr Panduleni Itula has no power to meddle with elected councilors, saying that he is not the president of the Independent Patriots of Change, in terms of its constitution.
Smith-Howard, who has been reinstated into her position after three months suspension, said in an interview with the Windhoek Observer newspaper that Itula is an autocrat.
“I am not here for the IPC leadership. They can be as hostile as they want to. There are so many issues to deal with. We have a massive health problem in our health sector and issues in the education sector. We have real problems and that is why I came into politics.
They can try stopping me, they can bring their best shot but what kind of leader would I be if I can’t withstand the wind from the front? Itula hasn’t even been elected as president of the Party. When did we have a congress? He has no standing in the constitution of the IPC. I believe he’s an autocrat and that is why they call for a disciplinary hearing,” she said.
Yesterday, Attorney General Festus Mbandeka wrote a letter addressed to the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development, saying that the chief regional officer (CRO), Habate Doeses acted outside her powers when she issued an internal memorandum addressed to regional council managers, restraining Smith-Howard.
Smith-Howard was suspended after she reportedly lied about being a resident of Swakopmund when she lives at Langstrand.
Mbandeka said that Doeses and the IPC acted prematurely by restraining the councilor when a determination whether or not she does not reside in Swakopmund hasn’t been made yet.
“It should first be established that in fact this member is not residing in the applicable constituency, which is currently in investigation phase, and then the principles of natural justice should be employed,” Mbandeka said, while urging IPC to conclude its probe into the matter.
“There is no winner in all of this. At the end of the day, it is the people that suffer. I was not just fighting for my position, I was fighting to be able to be back in the office and do my duties because everything else stands still if I’m not here. That directly affects the community. We’ve got a lot of ongoing projects. I came into politics not for the position, not for self gain, but to serve my community and that is why I am fighting to ensure that the people have this office open,” Smith-Howard stressed.
In her pending High Court application, she also wants the court to set aside the party’s decision to charge her. She was suspended in October last year and faces nine charges, including misconduct after she allegedly “inappropriately” called IPC leaders spineless in a WhatsApp group.
She is also accused of feeding party information to the media without authorization and slamming the boardroom door after attending a meeting with IPC President Panduleni Itula among other clarges.
In December last year, Smith-Howard challenged the venue of the disciplinary hearing, saying it should be held in Swakopmund. She was not allowed legal representation at the hearing.
Asked whether she would withdraw the High Court application in light of her reinstatement, Smith-Howard said the case will be ongoing.
“This is to protect myself in the future and those after me because it’s a sickness in IPC where they just decide to withdraw Councilors. I have to make sure that I protect my fellow councilors by making sure that IPC follows the procedures. IPC and Itula specifically do not have the power to just withdraw councilors,” she explained. The phone of IPC Secretary General Christine !Aochamus went unanswered when called for comment.