Are We a Genuine Democracy? [editorial]

THAT the Namibian Constitution needs some changes is not in doubt.

Like anything else in life, even our supreme law may need revising from time to time and all Namibians and other interested parties must be open to such changes.

But is the hasty push for more than 40 changes being spearheaded by the President, the Prime Minister, Cabinet, Swapo and the Law Reform Commission likely to strengthen our country or weaken it?

Making the Electoral Commission of Namibia more independent of the government of the day is definitely a move in the right direction. So is putting a similar distance between the courts (including the magistrates’ commission) and elected governing politicians. It is also good if the intention is to strengthen the already weak review powers of the National Council.

The question however is, why, if Namibia is a genuine democracy, has it taken so long to put in place such measures that will encourage regular and even detailed participation by citizens (and not only at election intervals) as well as to have g separation of powers between various organs of the State?

Indeed, how suspicious is it not, that the Minister of Presidential Affairs Albert Kawana, tabled in the National Assembly last week such urgently needed changes but also included repugnant measures to tighten the grip of the ruling party over the affairs of the State more than any other organ?

What is the urgency in increasing the National Assembly from 72 elected officials and six presidential appointees without voting powers to 104 politicians who include eight appointees of the head of state, but who also have the same voting powers as elected officials, except in few cases?

How come the proposed changes do not limit the number of ministers, deputies and such officials who sit in Cabinet, so that they do not dominate parliament as is the case now? Because it is the only way the executive can dictate matters in the legislature, is it not?

What is the urgency in adding a Vice-President to the already bloated political machinery? What is the urgency about increasing the number of the National Council representatives from two to three per region, even though the powers of the chamber whose members are the most directly elected remain only there to review but not decide on what their voters want?

What is the urgency in forcing that regional governors be made a constitutional requirement? Is it not bad enough already that they are (undemocratically) picked by the President to be the political heads of regions?

Listening to the likes of Sacky Shanghala (Law Reform chair, whose own Commission needs changing in order to include people who are representative of societal needs), Kawana and several Swapo politicians arguing that the amendments need to be approved so that we can have better run elections, is nothing short of listening to blackmail.

The latest amendments are like beans that are already infested with worms or like people claiming they are strengthening the foundation of a building by taking out steel and concrete and replacing it with a clay and water mixture.

This cabal is taking democracy for granted. They are turning the Constitution into a plaything. What Namibians need are measures to reverse the high levels of apathy towards governance that is fast enveloping our country.

The most urgent changes our Constitution needs should deal with increasing and encouraging every citizen to actively participate in the country’s governance.

One way to do that is to make it a constitutional provision that no part of the supreme law is changed without a minimum of year-long systematic consultations and information with groups and individual households. Not only that but that every constitutional amendment is directly voted on by all those eligible to cast a ballot.

Such a rule might be the only way for our politicians to appreciate that the powers and privileges they enjoy come as a package of authority delegated to them by the voting masses.

As for the current changes that are being considered by the National Assembly, we appeal to Swapo lawmakers, who hold more than two-thirds of the voting power, to reverse the process and not buy into this dishonest appeal for urgency. The so-called urgency was created by the ruling officials in Cabinet and the Law Reform Commission.

Please save the Namibian Constitution from becoming a political toy. Save our democracy.

Source : The Namibian