According to the Namibian Constitution, all powers vest in the people of Namibia. The Constitution further states that the people shall exercise their sovereignty through the democratic institutions of the State. The institutions referred to are the executive, legislature and judiciary.
It is critical in a constitutional democracy that people who occupy public positions at all times exhibit ethical and moral dispositions. They should also be conscious that they are there to serve the public.
Members of parliament, the focus of this article, as per the dictates of the Constitution, are the representatives of all the people.
The Namibian Constitution, public interest and their conscious ought to guide them in the performance of their duties, hence the oath of office. Informed observers of Namibian politics and governance would conclude, compared to the first decade after independence that our current public representatives are not carrying out their duties consistent with public expectations, and principles and values of the Constitution.
The knowledge, experiences and eloquences of the current members are in most instances not comparable to the likes of your Theo-Ben Gurirab, late Moses Katjiuongua, late Hidipo Hamutenya, late Mose Tjitendero, Dirk Mudge, late Kosie Pretorius, late Anna Frank, Libertine Amathila, late Nico Bessinger, late Buddy Wentworth, Andrew Matjila, Vekuii Rukoro, Nahas Angula, to mention just a few. The consequence of a weak parliament, is a weak executive, as the President appoints ministers from members of parliament. I do not think that any objective person would dispute the fact that there is a huge difference in the quality of debate between the current parliamentarians compared to the members immediately after independence. Against this background, it is important to reflect on why this is the case and what should be the interventions to address the situation.
The first possible explanation for the current situation lies in the shifting value system and lack of ideological grounding.
Before independence and immediately after 1990, the dominant value system was the promotion of the common good, solidarity and concerned about the weak and poor in society.
We have replaced these values with the culture of entitlement, individualism, materialism, greedy, opportunism and self-interest. The first intervention is therefore, to define or redefine the philosophy that underpins the Namibian State and by implication of the nation. What values and principles in practical terms should define the Namibian State and a Namibian? I am of the view that Namibia should return to servant, ethical and moral leadership.
The issues that we are grappling with of corruption, greedy and individualism, thus lack of social and class consciousness to enhance the common good are symptoms of moral degeneration.
The second intervention is for political parties to have basic knowledge, skills and value sets for public representatives.
Parliament with the power to enact laws should not be a place for those who cannot go anywhere.
Leadership in progressive forces inside the country such as churches, students’ and workers’ organizations prior to 1990 for example, was informed by who has the requisite skills and experience at a particular time to lead with the view to achieve set objectives. It was never a popularity contest.
Members were also prepared for leadership. We did not experience someone who has not served at a school, branch or regional level becoming the president of NANSO or NANTU. Your Paul Kalenga, Ignatius Shixwameni, Uhuru Dempers, Nathanael Areseb, Phanuel Kaapama, Marco Hausiku, Villard Usiku, Christine Gontes, John Nakuta, Markus Kampungu and others were ready to lead NANSO or NANTU to the next level and to make an impact when elected.
Thirdly, parliament to be effective in its oversight function would require continuous capacity development programmes.
Some of us are embarrassed when our parliamentarians continue to lack the basic understanding that their allegiances in the first instance are to all the people of Namibia and the Constitution, and not their political parties.
The Constitutional Court ruling in South Africa last year has put this matter to rest.
The judgement was clear that parliamentarians are representatives of all the people, and that the Constitution and their conscious should inform their parliamentary responsibilities and actions.
Fourthly, parliament and parliamentarians should recognize that we are in knowledge societies. Knowledge is a resource for someone to speak with authority on issues.
Against this background, the need for parliamentary staff with high-level expertise and experiences cannot be overemphasized.
Unfortunately, this is not the case currently. Namibia must also begin to value meritocracy.
We expect parliamentary staff to facilitate evidence-based policymaking through research. In a nutshell, the quality and effectiveness of parliamentary oversight is dependent on the competencies and experiences of your parliamentarians, their integrity and moral standing, and enabling professional support and environment.