Should the power of parties decrease?

30 January 2020

May we pose the question of whether our current party-based system of deciding Parliamentary seats is still viable 30 years after independence?  Is the time fast approaching where there needs to be a plebiscite on whether parties should decide on law makers, particularly in local elections, or whether the people in a community have the right to choose who they want to represent them, regardless of national parties and party-politics?  

If people directly elect their own governors, representatives to city councils and the national council, the reach and power of national parties will be decreased.  Is that a bad thing if the result is that local people have power where they live and have a voice that can rock the nation’s foundation if they are not listened to?  Parties would have to bow to the will of local leaders rather than the other way around.  Parties would be forced to listen to local people rather than dictate to them.  
What about having a regional tax on all sales that goes directly to the local governments where those sales are made.  Why should the national government who is struggling to use national assets to the equal benefit of all regions control the entire wallet?
Looking at it objectively, why does a national party, with its big-picture politics, agendas and egos have the right to dictate who sits as mayor in a small town in a distant region of the country?  The spate of embarrassing and ill-advised ‘re-calls’ done by Swapo Secretary-General Shaningwa a couple of years back at the behest of the Party’s leaders were quite telling.  Some who were told to leave office in favour of others acceptable to the party, flashed a finger at Shaningwa and stayed in power anyway.  The bell was rung at that point.  Local people now know that they can demand who will be their mayor or counsellor and the ‘party’ in Windhoek has no implementing or enforcing authority.   
Who said the Swapo politburo and central committee, who are NOT directly elected by the Namibian people as a whole, should have any power over who makes major decisions for the nation?  Who said the election top four of any party have any idea whatsoever of the best leadership of a town or village that they likely have never seen?

We take our questions further by asking, why should a directly elected president be limited to the questionable talent pool of those who have seats in Parliament due to a party list?  Leaving aside the constitutional right of the president to appoint 10 people precisely to address this concern, we wonder why people who are needed at a skills level to run ministries must also be a part of the legislative branch that requires a different set of skills. 
We look at those entering the Parliament in this session and are really worried about how the president will select enough talented, qualified people to lead ministries that must dig this country out of depression and poverty.  There are many ‘seat-filling’ Parliamentarians that will be sworn in riding the wave of the reduced-seat ruling party.  Are there enough of them with the smarts to seriously and professionally run a government ministry?  We will allow that there may well be people in Parliament with hidden talents and when given a chance, they could rise to the top and serve the nation.  At this key economic crisis time and change in the voting demographic of the nation can Namibia afford such gambles?
Even if Hage Geingob reduces the number of ministries (which is not a logistically easy thing to do), how will he find someone with experience, qualifications and capacity in land development, business and enterprise, healthcare administration (to name a few) that are desperately needed?  Automatically placing loyal comrades in ministerial posts is passé.  Loyalty is not enough in 2020.  This nation needs energetic, vibrant, qualified leaders with the commitment to focus on nation first, and their bank accounts later.  Re-appointing the same old faces to do the same tired, failed things begs the question of whether the talent pool on party lists is lacking.
These are no longer the days of the liberation war where loyalty mattered first.  That is 30 years past.  We are now about building on that victory of three decades ago by taking the country to the necessary next level.  You cannot do that with people of low capacity, poor communications skills, low leadership talents, no qualifications for professional work, but who can sing party songs and dance wearing Swapo colours in front of the president seated upon a dais.
Let us look hard during the next few years at the system we have.  As more independent candidates come forth and compete for political power, some from within existing parties and some with no party affiliation, we will see votes flying that way.  Is that a sign that party politics is not sating the political appetite of the ‘woke’ electorate?  What then is the solution going forward?


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The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

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