Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

15 February 2013

Namibia: This Week in the Khuta - Show Us What You Got or Leave

This week the seventh session of the fifth Parliament was officially opened by President Hifikepunye Pohamba. About eight new laws are expected to be debated during the course of the year and one hopes that in the end the debates will result in legislation that will improve the lives of the majority of the citizenry.

But what should the public expect from the lawmakers that they have entrusted to represent them in Parliament? The president emphasised during his speech on Tuesday that Parliament must pass laws that will improve service delivery and bring about a positive and lasting impact on the lives of the people. He said that democracy would be meaningless if our people were to remain poor and without enough food to eat adding that the right to vote would also be meaningless if the elected leaders do not deliver on their promises of a better life and provision of public services to the people.

Prime Minister, Hage Geingob also promised robust debates in Parliament and a greater connection between Parliament and the people.

Members of Parliament from the opposition always tend to sell themselves to the electorate by promising to do things differently from the ruling party but judging from the previous debates and utterances by the opposition, I am beginning to question their contribution to quality debates that will result in improved lives for the masses.

The opposition parties should not be in Parliament just to make up the numbers, they are there to keep the ruling party in check and to provide alternative policies that will make this country a better nation for all.

It is worrying and disheartening when opposition parties think that reacting to everything that the government says or does is their forte. Instead of reacting to anything that the Government or the ruling party does, opposition parties should rather be proactive making their own ideas and policies known to the electorate. Unfortunately for the opposition, with the quality of debates that they have contributed in the past, I don't see Swapo relinquishing its majority in Parliament any time soon. In fact I foresee opposition numbers dwindling in the next elections.

A classic example of the opposition's reactionary tendencies was exhibited by the Congress of Democrats Party President, Ben Ulenga when he recently called for the government to refund parents who had paid for their children's pre-primary and primary education since independence. Ulenga's untenable call comes after government had announced free education for all primary school going children.

He was quoted by a local daily telling his gullible listeners that "free and compulsory education is an obligation and Government should not try to pull a blanket over the nation's eyes by pretending to be doing something out of their own initiative. This is a constitutional obligation that Government has failed to implement since 1990." What political points was he trying to score with such cheap politicking?

Ulenga's remarks suggests that opposition parties are there to just slam the government for the sake of it. Good politics dictates that you praise your political enemy, no matter how difficult it is to swallow, whenever they do something that deserves praise. This is mature politics and the electorate will respect that. Opposing for the sake of opposing doesn't cut it for me. Perhaps the opposition parties are taking the word opposition far too literally.

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