Absenteeism has become chronic in the National Assembly as the ruling party readies for its watershed and seventh elective congress. The habitual absenteeism has left presiding officers with no choice but to adjourn proceedings due to a lack of quorum.
This is while Swapo MPs and functionaries criss-cross the country in search of congressional support.
For over a month, the majority of Swapo MPs, including candidates for the top three positions, have been on the campaign trail, visiting regions for scheduled meetings with delegates and other hastily-arranged meetings on the sidelines, seemingly meant to make up for their prolonged time away from office.
The candidates have been joined by ministers and backbenchers also campaigning to be part of the powerful Swapo central committee.
By denying Namibians the much-needed quorum, Swapo, which has 63 seats in the National Assembly, has, rightly so, come under attack from members of the opposition.
Its absent members have also been accused of putting their own ambitions first over the needs of ordinary Namibians.
Several National Assembly sessions have been adjourned in the last couple of weeks due to a lack of quorum. Of course, it goes without saying that Namibians have every right to feel hard done by due to the skipping of parliamentary sessions.
It should be noted that every five years, voters go to the polls to elect members of the National Assembly to serve as the voice of the electorate between elections.
Thus, MPs have the moral obligation to show up for work to perform what they are paid for. The irony here is that those not turning up for parliamentary sessions are at the same time positioning themselves for key elections, including that of continuing to serve as MPs in the next administration.
Sadly, this comes at the expense of ordinary Namibians who yearn for better days, including job opportunities, cheaper prices for food, fuel as well as access to land and housing.
It is also not fair to other loyal MPs who turn up for work, irrespective of the current political dynamics.
It should be known that those guilty of absenteeism are allowing a dangerous precedent, not forgetting the taxpayers who have to foot the bill at the end of the day.
MPs are paid really well. The average MP makes around N$600 000 per year. On top of that, they receive more than generous benefits, and only work in parliament during certain periods of the year.
They also don’t work Fridays and Mondays. Surely, it is not the first time that Swapo is organising an intra-party elective meeting.
The onus remains on members to ensure they fulfil their obligations towards the electorate in a consistent manner.
The situation also calls for action not only on the part of the chief whip of the ruling party, but the time has come for the presiding officers to put down their foot and crack the whip on MPs over excessive absenteeism.
Corrective measures must be taken against the culprits, who at this point in time are doing a disservice to the electorate.