Not Even My Party Leaders Opposed the Entitlement?

NAMIBIANS are bracing for another Presidential and National Assembly election in about six months to supposedly elect their representatives and government.

The question that immediately comes to mind is how different will these elections be from previous ones? The answer is quite clear unless we as voters wake up and go into these elections with a different mindset.

I do not need to elaborate on empty promises that the ruling party has made, election after election, and come back to seek another mandate without fulfilling previous promises 24 years down the independence line.

Many Namibians have for long been concerned that our system of proportional representation is not doing any justice to those who elect politicians to truly represent their interests. The latest Namibian patriot to call for a relook into how and who represents us in parliament was Gwen Lister in her Political Perspective column of last Friday (16 May). I am glad she brought up this issue for reflection by the electorate.

I would like to add my voice to this issue of representation.

The Rally for Democracy and Progress [RDP] was formed to critically address why the Namibian voters are getting a raw deal from their elected representatives both in Parliament and Government. We identified the main cause as the lack of accountability to the electorate and the arrogance of power that comes with it.

That is why in the RDP manifesto of 2009 we proposed that, should RDP come to power, we would radically review the proportional representation system as currently enshrined in the Constitution. That means, moving away from party lists to direct constituency representation.

I believe that many current MPs would not make it to Parliament if direct voting of individuals or a constituency based system was introduced. Most simply rely on the party list system to survive in politics.

Many Namibians, irrespective of their political persuasions, believe that the party list or proportional representation has made our politicians less accountable to the electorate and they simply think of themselves. And this is without exception across all political parties. This unfortunately includes my own party.

A recent and good example is the recommendation by the parliamentary group headed by the Speaker of Parliament, as highlighted by Lister in her column that “MPs receive eternal VIP status, even once they are out of office after retirement and that they get all manner of perks and aantages over ordinary citizens including retention of housing, transport and furniture allowances, among others. It is clear they think only of themselves.”

These recommendations are ridiculous and must be rejected. This country is full of hungry people, homeless people and destitution is everywhere but our MPs are concerned with their life-long VIP status and the benefits that go with it. I have never heard such a practice anywhere in the world and it is an indication that the ruling elite in this country takes the people for granted.

I am even more confounded by the fact that not a single RDP MP came out and spoke publicly against such a culture of entitlement! Were these not some of the reasons why the RDP was founded to fight self-enrichment and other vices such as institutionalised corruption? The message we get from such silence simple means that current politicians (across political lines) forget why they are elected to positions of governance.

I am a g proponent of constituency-based MPs in order to hold them accountable and it is time the Namibian electorate began having a different mindset and elect people who will be answerable to them. If, for instance, an MP does not perform, (who is elected directly) then heshe knows that come next elections, heshe is likely to be punished by the electorate and lose hisher parliamentary seat. It is as simple as that!

We are seeing very frightening examples of parties within our SADC region that are simply being re-elected into power irrespective of whether they delivered on their promises or not and basically depend on their past history and liberation war credentials.

What do I then propose to change in Namibia? To start with, many young people have registered to vote in the upcoming elections and my appeal is directed at them to come out in big numbers and vote to change the way this country is governed. They must know that the future of this country belongs to them and if they adopt an “I don’t care attitude” they will, at the end of the day, only have themselves to blame. In my view, I really do not mind whichever party wins the presidency but what I really hope to see is a balance of power in the country. This will mean no party will have an overall majority to dominate the legislature. With no absolute dominance, the practice of bulldozing unpopular laws would be a thing of the past.

Hence, if we want laws that will benefit the majority of our people, this is where we have to start. Let us vote for a balance.

Any elected president (irrespective of herhis party) will definitely not ignore the balance of power in Parliament. If Namibian voters want to see accountability in action, they better vote wisely and strike a balance in both the National Assembly and the National Council (House of Review). The simple logic is what you vote in is what you get out.

A new balance of power in Parliament could then review the current system of proportional representation and a bill could easily be introduced to change the Constitution by replacing the party list system with a constituency-based parliament where we can hold our MPs accountable.

Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so.

Libolly L Haufiku is an RDP member and the opinions expressed in this article are his own.

Source : The Namibian