The Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Anna Nghipondoka said she will not be discussing matters related to parliamentarians receiving iPhones.
“Do not ask me about phones I am not aware of phones being given to parliamentarians,” she said when contacted for comment.
Not too long ago Nghipondoka made headlines when she addressed stakeholders during the official announcement of Grade 11 and 12 results at Eenhana, where she questioned why teachers were unable to buy laptops for themselves.
Ironically, the minister will be among the MPs to receive gadgets, under the guise that MPs cannot afford to buy smart gadgets needed to undertake the e-parliament system being implemented.
Nghipondoka’s remarks on teachers entitlement to laptops have been thrown in the limelight, with the public questioning why an MP, who receives a salary that is three to five times more than a teacher can receive a free cellphone, while a low paid civil servant can should by themselves laptops.
This has brought an issue of insensitivity on the minister’s part and an issue of misplaced priorities by the national leaders.
Meanwhile, Landless People’s Movement Deputy Leader Henny Seibeb has justified the distribution of iPhones to MPs.
“You’re ill-informed. All jobs require tools of trade for effective and efficient performance to discharge specific duties. Even Presidents, Executive Directors, Special Assistants and parliamentarians in Southern Africa and in the commonwealth are accorded such. Why should MPs work without computers, phones, copy machines as if they live in Stone Age or Iron Age? We talk go 4IR and globalizing the world and MPs Should be properly equipped. Please donate your phones and laptops to me so we see how you’ll operate. Talk is cheap,” Seibeb responded to Swapo party youth league member Fillemon Shikomba.
Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanya said the purchase shows insensitivity from the law makes and that the time is not right.
“MPs as policy makers should be the examples in how we can sacrifice to make sure we can provide better and effective services. It also shows the entitlement of our law makers and how insensitive they are to the needs of the Namibian people,” he said.
According to Kamwanyah, the timing is “very”questionable in the sense that the country finds itself in a difficult economic situation but more in particularly the situation of teachers being told to buy their on laptops.
“Yet here you have the law makers being the first to benefit instead of prioritizing the education system and they can equip our teachers so they can provide and do their jobs also better. We also have some classrooms that are full and children are not being accommodated so for teacher having laptops and having access to technology that can help elevating the classroom shortage, “ he said.
Maruis Kudumo, another political analyst shared the same sentiments.
“Public office is not only about entitlements but also about public service, consciousness, sensitivity, and moral and ethical judgements. The question is how will the members of the public judge and or view the action in this particular case? This is against the background of Article 45 of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia which states: “The members of the National Assembly shall be representative of all the people and shall in the performance of their duties be guided by the objectives of this Constitution, by the public interest and by their conscience.” This action in my view, will be interpreted as insensitive and inconsiderate of the challenges that the majority of Namibians are finding themselves in with regards to their livelihoods, and working and living conditions,”he said.
However Graham Hopwood, another commentators said the cost between the two is not comparable.
“The cost between the two is not really comparable. There are thousands of teachers in the country compared to the 105 members of parliament or 42 National Council members. We can have arguments against the cellphones but it’s not really comparable. It would be really expensive for government to buy, and maintain laptops for all the teachers in the country. Whether it’s debatable for MP’S to get cellphones it’s not a comparable issue in terms of cost,” he stressed.
In a media statement the National Assembly said MP’s are using the devices to assist them in carrying out their legislative duties in line with the e-parliament strategy.