The Namibian (Windhoek)

22 August 2014

Namibia: Thank You for Compromising, Now End the Pack of Lies and Deceit

editorial

THE ADVOCATES of far-reaching constitutional changes have had some sort of epiphany and decided to yield on at least one crucial aspect. Thank you for listening a little to voices of reason.

Albert Kawana, the minister in the office of the President, told the National Assembly on Wednesday that they (Swapo or the trio of Kawana, Prime Minister Hage Geingob and law reform chief Sacky Shanghala) had decided to "compromise in the spirit of give-and-take" and not allow unelected people the same rights and powers as those elected to parliament.

Kawana said they had compromised "in the national interest". Yet he warned: "They (the compromises) were not made because we are weak." Wow!

So, for Kawana and ilk it is about a show of strength? How worrying that lawmakers are more concerned that they would be perceived to be weak if they did the right thing by changing their destructive decisions.

Kawana, his comrades and the opposition parties that meekly went along with these shenanigans because they too would personally benefit, should be proud that rolling back such clearly undemocratic and self-serving changes to the Constitution will stand Namibia in good stead. We all make mistakes...

That one "compromise" is an indication that the myriad of amendments now before the National Assembly were not thought through.

Kawana and the rest of the lawmakers must quickly realise that they have only just begun to do right by the electorate.

And no, Namibians have not and could not possibly have intended to surrender their "sovereignty" to their elected officials, as the proponents of the changes want us to believe. The Constitution is too important to be handed over wholesale to elected representatives or any small group in between elections, so they can do what they feel like with it.

Lawmakers should rescind their plans to give the President constitutional powers to appoint governors. It was a mistake in the first place, as lawyer and constitutional activist, Nixon Marcus, so eloquently states on these opinion pages.

Our (indirectly) elected representatives must rethink their plan to increase the National Assembly from 78 to 104 members at a cost to taxpayers of about N$700 000 in salaries and perks - for each ordinary member - to more than N$1 million a year each for ministers. The same goes for the National Council.

Urgency should be placed on national priorities, such as increasing the number of doctors at state hospitals. It makes no sense that the country has political office bearers who are paid more than medical doctors (with the ratio of doctors to the population lower than that of politician per citizens).

The argument that a vice president is needed to make the State more "ethnically or regionally" representative of the country's diverse people does also not wash. Right diagnosis, wrong treatment.

Tribalism, regionalism and similar evils are growing because politicians and government officials, who control the purse strings of taxpayers' funds, do not distribute the resources equitably. In this day and age, national leaders should not be seen, and should not act, as representatives of tribes or regions. In a country of more than 20 ethnic groupings, and now 14 regions, tribal rotations will only strengthen divisions.

Share the nation's resources well and few would feel bad that, for example, Okahao, where Sam Nujoma originates from, has/had the best public maternity health centre in the country or that an airfield was built because of the President.

We appreciate that democracy and peace are expensive, but the returns on investing in them are highly lucrative. On the contrary, anything else, including the dilution of democracy, as is happening at present, is destructive and ever more costly.

Frankly, the total sum of the current constitutional amendments, with few exceptions, of course, amounts to a pack of lies and deceit.

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