The newly-constituted ruling SWAPO Party Think Tank has members who are clearly conflicted as some of them are employed by the state, political analyst Henning Melber said this week.
“It clearly seems a conflict of interest to me as regards at least some of the members who are employed by the state and financed by revenue income, Melber told the Windhoek Observer.
He said the composition of the Think Tank illustrates the absence of an internalised awareness that democracy requires a clear separation of powers and a similar clear division between a party, the government and the state.
“Public servants and government officials should disqualify as members of a party think tank, which is, in terms of policy formulation, quite different from being an active party member participating in policy discussions,” Melber said.
“This suggests a similar misunderstanding what their defined role should be. The absence of any awareness about the need to keep a service for the whole country as a civil servant apart from a party partisan function is worrying to say the least.”
Melber added that the appointment of conflicted individuals as members of the SWAPO Party Think Tank is evidence enough that Namibian democracy is flawed and shows the features of a de facto one-party state.
“The most obvious example is the governor of the Bank of Namibia (Iipumbu Shiimi). After all, the bank should act, in terms of its monetary policies, autonomous from government, which at times is a matter of constraint elsewhere, if you look at the USA and Turkey, but also to some extent the United Kingdom as most obvious examples currently.”
He said it is an absolute conflict if the central bank governor is at the same time a member of a party think tank.
“Along similar lines, the strict observance of the rule of law would imply that someone in the position of Yvonne Dausab (Chairperson of the Law Reform Development Commission) should not be a member of such a think tank.”
Melber said he has seen little evidence that the SWAPO Think Tank is more than a talk shop.
“But maybe things go on behind the public sphere which cannot be properly judged. It is difficult to make a reliable assessment of the impact it might have,” he said.
Melber said given the sheer number of people and the variety of backgrounds and competences, it seems not easy to come up with coherent and effective think pieces to advise the party.
“A properly functioning think tank should also play a visible role in the public sphere by publishing policy papers explaining the SWAPO approach to important matters. Nothing of this kind has been produced so far.”
Melber said given earlier experiences of an election year, he would not be surprised be surprised if SWAPO introduced populist policies this year to appease the masses although fiscal constraints might limit the ruling party’s generosity.
“But as before, we should not be surprised if, for example, traditional leaders get some nice presents, like new cars and civil servants receive some additional benefits. However, due to the economic constraints, the finance minister has already indicated that tax reductions seem unlikely. The majority of the electorate might, therefore, not benefit as much from an election year as before.”
Meanwhile, Shiimi has defended his role, saying the Think Tank is meant to generate ideas.
“I believe the Think Tank was set up to generate ideas that will help Namibia move forward. Such a body, with those goals, is worth supporting,” the governor said.
Dausab did not respond to an email sent to her on Thursday while presidential adviser, Dr John Steytler, who is also part of the Think Tank did not respond to a message sent to him.
The 60-member team is made up of chairperson, Ambassador Claudia Uushona, deputy chair, Mokgatle-Aukhumes Martina, secretary, Messag Mulunga.
Those on its editorial committee are Austin Samupwa, Tangeni Haindongo, Alis Amupolo and Ben Nangombe.
The inner party governance committee is made up of Dr Kalumbi Shangula, Benjamin Mweshihange, Tobie Aupindi, Hanghuwo Olivia Tuyenikelao and Joseph Kandjimi.
Its economics cluster is made up of Andrew Ndishishi, Shiimi, Steytler, Emma Haihambo and Amos Shiyuka.
The cluster on infrastructure and services is made up of Don Kondunda, Martha Umati, Abisai Ishitile, Lukas Wakudumo, Ben Shalli and Christian Hikumwah.
The social cluster is made up of Herman Shitaleni, Tuli Nghiyoonanye, Gerson Kamatuka, Salome Kambala and Iddy Itope.
The defence and security is made up of Sam Shivute, Gen Ephraphas Ndaitwah, Major General Desiderius Shilunga, Theresia Basson, Mathias Kashindi and Phillipus Heita.
The implementation and monitoring cluster is made up of Benedict Libanda, Florette Nakusera, Martha Murorwa, Helot Namas, Ndiyakupi Nghituwamata and Wellem Nekwiyu.
The diplomacy and jurisprudence cluster is made up of Sarafina Tshilunga, Muesee Kazapua, Dauses and Slysken Makando.
The information, science and technology cluster is made up of Martin Shipanga, Andre Neville, Frieda Shimanekeni-Fried, Ephraim Nekongo, Theo Nghitila and Tuna-Willem Menecia.