30 November 2012

Namibia: Any Democracy Is a Process


While much of the nation's attention was on the campaigns for the position of the vice-president of the Swapo Party, now is the opportune time to appreciate the significance and democratic process that comes with the make-or-break congress.

During the American elections all citizens of the world - including Namibia - were fixated on the policy direction articulated by the two candidates, Mitt Romney and Barak Obama, now re-elected as President of the United States of America.

The American presidential debates captured audiences the world over other than just the American voters.

Namibia's multi-party system is not comparable to that of the Americans. However, a parallel is compelling in terms of the emphasis on the importance of the Swapo Party Congress to the Namibian political landscape.

The congress is more than about electing leaders for Swapo Party, including who is potentially going to be the next president. The public's interest should be on how the ruling party intends governing the country onward. It is a cliché, but the ruling party became a ruling party because the majority of registered voters voted for it. It goes without saying then, that when it comes to governing the country, the roadmap used is the manifesto on which most voters, if not all, base their votes.

Hence, the public, as the electorate who have voted Swapo into power, should be active participants in the dialogue and policy articulation, giving input prior to the congress through the structures at constituency, district and eventually regional level.

This weekend's gathering is literally a dialogue, a public dialogue where the public's opinion is expressed through the mouths of the 600 delegates from all the 13 regions.

Whoever emerges as the vice-president on Sunday, between Cde Jerry Ekandjo, Cde Hage Geingob, and Cde Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, would have to toe the line set by the delegates at the congress. He or she would be the president tasked with implementing those decisions as the president of the country come 2015.

Indeed, if there were ever a better time to appreciate democracy at work, it is now.

For what is democracy if it is not about collective decisions, collective participation in deciding the best guiding policies of the country; individual citizens taking a stand and entrusting their agents to exercise that principle?

Besides canvassing votes for the candidates, it is important to ponder whether sufficient input was sought from public voters in the regions so that the 600 delegates in Windhoek could give assured positions and strengthen the political dialogue that is taking place over the weekend. That is an important element in any democratic dispensation.

This gathering would, until Sunday, be brainstorming and ultimately deciding on the best policy positions in which to direct Namibia. Policies deemed not to have been workable and/or not meeting the needs of the country over the past 22 years, would be revamped, redirected and/or replaced with new ones.

Ultimately, some of these guiding principles and policies would wound up as addendums to strengthen national policies and laws, through the National Assembly, where for the final democratic push, the ruling party would convince the fragmented opposition parties why new approaches are necessary.

Opposition parties too can take a leaf from the ruling party. The ruling party can never be accused of being short on democratic principles.

The list of all 40-something candidates vying for the positions within the party was put in the public domain a good time before the congress. Pressing topics up for discussions were put out in public, before the congress. Interestingly, no opposition party dared to analyse or ponder some of these issues. Not to say these topics - such as land - are irrelevant.

No. They are much crucial for they touch bread and butter issues of the country. However, it would have been good if opposition parties do their job to stimulate debate, as this would have reflected the thinking and ideology of Namibia's opposition parties.

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