The new normal could mean a serious reconsideration of proportional representation in Parliament and an end to parties making decisions about who represents people locally. Affirmative Repositioning (AR) has registered with the Electoral Commission of Namibia in time for the upcoming 2020 local authority and regional council elections. AR co-leader Job Amupanda has had long-stated aspirations to be the Mayor of the City of Windhoek. The stage has been set for an exercise in inclusive democracy that is long overdue in Namibia.
Namibian politics has shifted significantly from where things were in March 1990. The world has altered remarkably since then. Political maturity within the masses means those at the top are clinging to the reins of power in spite of outmoded world views, conservative social mores, a disconnect with the man-in-the-street, and a sense of entitlement will be moved aside. This does not apply to those perceptive enough who have updated themselves, their networks, their methods and understanding. It applies to those who have sought to slow everyone else down because they could no longer keep up. These people will not move aside with grace. They have to be pushed. It is not an individual like Bernadus Swartbooi, MP or Panduleni Itula (former independent candidate for president) or Amupanda that will do the pushing, it is people’s demand for inclusive democracy that will be the bulldozer.
In South Africa, their courts have made a historic ruling on independent candidacy that throws things wide open. Read: dailymaverick.co.za/article/2020-06-17 and theconversation.com/constitutional-court. Their status quo has shifted and the parties are forced to adjust.
The causes of that constitutional court case in SA, are similar to ongoing debates about independent candidacy in Namibia. People in local areas, want to decide for themselves who represents them. These constituents want a local council and mayor who they elect, who are accountable to them, and who represent that community’s priorities.
The established party power brokers are too arrogant or uninformed to see the express train (called independent candidacy) speeding down the tracks headed right for them. They don’t even realize they are sitting on train tracks. They have no plan to stop the train, get on board or jump out of the way. They think that if they huff and puff about who liberated the country, respecting elders and expel people from party rolls, the train will vanish. It won’t.
That express train is fuelled by the failure of the existing leadership to demonstrate advancements in service provision and economic development. That train is fuelled conducted by free speech, a mobile society, high expectations of a young population, frustration at joblessness and poor housing, grinding generational poverty, and perceptions of rampant corruption.
The issue is not AR vs Swapo or any other party. It is the change to a system that may have outlived its usefulness. Just as young people all over the world are calling for defunding police and an end to white privilege, the call in Namibia should be for direct elections for all public offices. Defund the political parties in Namibia!
Imagine candidates having to meet and listen to constituencies, know their needs and get those needs addressed. Imagine MPs not falling asleep in Parliament or remaining silent all year because they will lose the next election if they don’t bring results to those who voted for them. The direct election system has its own set of problems to be sure, but it would be a game-changer for Namibia.
Let the people decide who represents them; not a party congress full of officials who rise only if they placate inter-party backers. Such a move will make the officers of a political party a footnote, not a headline. Therein lies the problem. Getting independent candidacies and direct elections into play is asking people with power to vote to eliminate their jobs. They won’t willingly do it; it must be done for them.
It will take more Amupandas and Itulas to make political parties less important. There will be more people organizing themselves, stepping forward and offering their points of view and services to the people. This is a good thing. And, it is going to happen anyway whether those in power due to party politics like it or not. All they can do now, is slow it down until their time in power passes on naturally. With slow drought recovery, severe economic depression and a the economic downside of a global pandemic strangling Namibia, one wonders if the nation will survive long enough for this natural passage of the reins of power.
Politicians should answer directly to the people if they want to win election. Answering to a party that never asks a question is not working.