Political Perspective [analysis]

THE SAD thing is not only that our members of parliament ‘want it all’, because we have come to expect this of them, but also that there is so little we can do about their arrogance, non-delivery and greed.

The question arises as to whether our democracy is not a meaningless concept without depth when people have few to no choices in an attempt to change things. In this respect perhaps the time has come to seriously review the system of proportional representation as it offers no solution to the poor calibre of national political leadership across the board. At present there is a glaring lack of humility as well as scant integrity and morality in our legislature, and it’s a depressing scenario overall.

Ordinarily regular elections are considered a yardstick and necessary measure of democracy. People go to the polls to vote for the party of their choice, and in a multi-party system, they can throw their weight behind opposition groups if they feel the ruling party has failed them. So it would seem that we comply with these requirements in that we have the ballot and the right to choose between the various political entities.

The big question is whether we really have a choice.

In the most recent example of the recommendations by a parliamentary group headed by National Assembly Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab, 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.

I am struck by the fact that none (as far as I am aware) among the spectrum of political parties represented in parliament, has gone public to speak out against these unconscionable demands. It seems political factions vary from one another in name only, but in reality, there is scant substantive difference between them.

This is clearly an African dilemma. Widespread unhappiness with ruling parties that one would think would manifest in the ballot box, simply results in them being re-elected into office time and again. Why is it that credible opposition parties cannot get off the ground? Because they are cut from the same cloth?

South Africans recently gave another overwhelming victory to the ANC (with only a slight erosion in numbers) in spite of the Nkandla scandal involving lavish State expenditures on President Jacob Zuma’s luxury ‘homestead’. The electorate complains incessantly, but then puts them right back into office. How then, can we expect change, when even evidence of corruption, wrongdoing and maladministration gets a resounding sanction from the people?

And what, if anything, will drive home the message to ruling parties that they cannot get away with the perpetuation of these evils?

We don’t seem to encourage an informed and thinking electorate. But if they did in fact ask those crucial questions of political parties like how they would solve unemployment how they plan to tackle crime and violence against women and children what they’ll do about spiralling corruption would they get the answers that would lead them to making intelligent choices as they cast their votes?

If we had MPs who were directly elected by the people, rather than those the parties choose to give us whether we like them or not, would it make a difference? Would we at least then be able to hold accountable specific individuals for their non-delivery or lack of performance and exert pressure on them to do better or would it be much of the same given an overall lack of calibre in terms of political leadership.

Examples abound on our continent of heads of state and political leadership who simply look after themselves while the people suffer. IOL News reports that Swazi King Mswati III has increased his household budget to US$61 million, even with a personal fortune estimated at US$200 million, and an extravagant lifestyle while 60% of the population live on less than US$1 a day. Political office bearers obsessed with themselves and their status are the order of the day and Namibia is no different.

It would be totally unacceptable for our MPs to be granted the things they demand. They have to realise, as I recently said on Twitter, that they are servants and not gods. They should be content with a pension at the end of their political lives, the benefits of which cannot be granted in perpetuity.

We know that there are good Namibians out there, but most are not interested in political life because of the current crop.

It is depressing to admit that if we continue along the path of proportional representation, it will be a question of the luck of the draw as to whether or not we get decent representation. If we elected our MPs directly, we may have a chance of getting the right people into office.

But even as we must and should debate these things for the betterment of our very lacklustre democracy, the final and perhaps most crucial question of all must be turned on ourselves because it concerns our morality as a nation: if we were elected to political office in the place of those who are there now, would we simply do the same?

Source : The Namibian