Stop the Parliamentary Obscenity [opinion]

IN A COUNTRY where pertinent issues are allowed passing without critical reflection, the envisaged construction of a new parliament building is the last straw in the threshold of madness tolerance, I would argue, of the Namibian body politic.

The issue of the construction of a new parliament has elicited some media attention and expressions of protest by the citizenry. With brevity, I shall in the next few sentences try to subject to scrutiny the obscenity surrounding the envisaged construction of a new parliament for the Republic of Namibia.

For a start, ‘the palace of ink’ (Tintenpalast) has outlived the German empire, it has outlived the South African apartheid regime and it will certainly outlive the “where were you during the liberation struggle” generation. In justifying the unjustifiable at this critical juncture, some MPs aanced points that are at best insulting of the citizenry’s intelligence.

Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Loide Kasingo was vulgar in her defence of the planned parliament building, for the reasons she proffered are disturbingly flimsy (The Namibian, 07 March 2014). The Speaker of the National Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, added a historical weight to this defence, claiming that the idea was conceived a long time ago (The Namibian, 25 March 2014). To me, this is irrelevant. The fact that the idea was conceived 20 years ago does not make it palatable today.

Talk about misplaced priorities and leaders who have lost feeling – never mind touch, as they are always in those black Mercedes with tinted glasses – with ordinary folks. What do we need a new parliament building for? Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that the majority of those who these ‘honourable members’ want to bequeath the future of this country to are adamant that there is no need for a new parliament right now and probably not in the near future. So, why foist this on us? Mbembe reminds us that “the signs, vocabulary, and narratives that the commandment produces are not meant merely as symbols they are officially invested with a surplus of meanings that are not negotiable and that one is officially forbidden to depart from or challenge” (2001: 103).

So, the building of a new parliament will go ahead and it does not matter that some citizens are displeased by this plan such that they protested before the House of those who claim to represent them? It is a done deal and the ordinary folks are officially forbidden from challenging and not least departing from this plan?

I wonder if Loide Kasingo and Theo-Ben Gurirab have read the latest Labour Force Survey and whether or not they are aware of the fact that youth unemployment rate stands at 42.8 %. How will the construction of the new parliament stimulate the economy and lead to job creation? How does the construction of a new parliament constitute any serious thinking on the part of the MPs while what we need is economic emancipation? Please educate me.

How do we justify a new parliament when MPs are failing to form a quorum and when they pitch, the result is a little more than ‘warming up’ seats? I exonerate those who are always present and do contribute to parliamentary life when they are present. The Institute for Public Policy Research’s parliamentary performance assessments over the years shed some light here. On a cautionary note, let me emphasise that I am talking about MPs in the National Assembly (NA). A tendency of treating the two Houses of Parliament as one is pervasive – MPs would ordinarily refer to members in both houses – although in this case from the discussion it is apparent that my focus is on the NA.

The folly of MPs not listening to vox populi must stop! If elected officials, or appointed to be specific, are representative of the people as they claim – then they must listen to what the people are saying. We do not need a new parliament building!

What we need are improved investments in the well being of the citizenry – education, health, vocational training, and improved roads – improved infrastructure – basic services to the remote areas of regions. We need increased pension grants for the elderly, scholarships for graduate and postgraduate studies, improved salaries for the men and women in our civil service.

By way of conclusion, I would like to urge those entrusted with running the affairs of the state to reflect on issues before moving onto the implementation phase. Test ideas by throwing them around and allow them to be reflected upon by those you represent. Survey the environment and ascertain different competing priorities before deciding on whether or not we have enough dollars to spend on a ‘palace of the grotesque’.

The author is a Sociology graduate of the University of Namibia and has been associated with the Institute for Public Policy Research since 2009.

Source : The Namibian