Are Political Parties’ key Roles in Parliament still commonsensical?

Martin Endjala

Namibia’s post-independence era has seen the growth of establishment and the growth of parliamentary democracy. In this democratic architecture, political parties have been pivotal in driving national debate on pertinent national issues, as well as playing a watchdog role to ensure that the ruling party delivers on its election promises. “Of course, this is done to carry the message of its electorate and that pertinent issues are debated,” says Landless People’s Movement (LPM) assistant national spokesperson Dephine Simasiku in a conversation with the Windhoek Observer.

”Certainly, the LPM will be a force to be reckoned with, as it is gaining popularity fast because of its way of doing things. It’s robustness in debating issues that are at the heart of all Namibians such as the land issue, genocide, and service delivery,” she states when asked if LPM sees itself as one of the parties that would give Swapo a run for its money in the 2024 election. Simasiku says LPM is by far the only party that is monitoring and interrogating its councilors’ activities to make sure they uphold the mandate of the party and the promises they made to the electorate, refuting allegations that LPM leaders are bullying its councilors, stating that activities of LPM councilors are monitored to ensure fruitful service deliveries to the nation. The All People’s Party (APP) Secretary General (SG) Vicent Kanyetu urges MPs to show respect, as they are entrusted to lead the Namibian people who voted for them and his party will be looking to collaborate with all parties to ensure service delivery to the Namibian nation and believes that political parties are critical in this regard.

He says this in reference to last year’s unproductive National Assembly session, due to numerous hurdles, that saw the parliament becoming under attack from Namibians, who felt MPs were not worth the money they earned. The MPS rather engage in unproductive fights, launching personal attacks on each other among others that led to pertinent bills such as Gender Based Violence Amendment Bill not being attended to.

Political analyst, Professor Henning Melber, told Windhoek Observer emphasized that in a parliamentary democracy such as in Namibia, relies to a large extent on deliberations, initiatives and the consequences of such work by the lawmakers. In Namibia’s case, Melber says, there is an element, which to some extent limits parliamentary work, because the dominant party is much more in control of deliberations. Since independence Swapo has been holding absolute majority and at times. “This means that most interaction depends on the party’s MPs willingness to provide space for views of the political opposition,” says Melber.

“We have often witnessed that the initiatives of the opposition parties are dismissed or at least these are the accusations, and then at a later stage appropriated by Swapo to score. A vibrant democracy requires open discourse and exchange to find the best possible solutions for governance in the people’s interest. A dominant party system tends to stifle such an innovative atmosphere,” he asserts.

He further points out that “it is also noticeable that members of political opposition are not always up to standard, as they either remain to a large extent passive, or act destructively, concurring to confrontations during debatable issues in the house”. He however believes that much more initiatives can be taken by the opposition, ”if competency and ability to tackle issues, which need to be addressed and resolved is emphasized.

Melber continued to say that even if dismissed by the Swapo majority and not pursued further, this could trigger more public debates and thereby pay attention to possible solutions the Parliament is not bringing about due to lack of perseverance.

Concurring with President Hage Geingob, Melber says MPs need to pull up their socks and do their homework. ”They were elected to deliver, and not to sit and receive fat salaries and perks for nothing.” The fired up Melber, insisted that a number of a variety of parties is a good ingredient for democracy and also delivery of services, but it also needs pro-active MPs who act not only in party political interest and show loyalty, but also guided by the values of service to the people, that is the electorate, he concludes.

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