Dr Abisai Shejavali I have been observing with keen interest the numerous progressive developments that we, as a nation, have attained since our independence from oppression in 1990 and of course, I have expressed my concerns in areas where we have missed the mark. The purpose for writing this open letter is to initiate a national dialogue that explores possible amendments to the Namibian Constitution that may include the addition and/or removal of certain provisions. I am of the view that such amendments would make the supreme law even more conducive to the development of Namibia and to the wellbeing of its people. I specifically address this letter to you as I am aware that such dialogue would best be handled through your distinguished responsibilities as a representative of the National Assembly, its powers, functions and dignity within and outside the chamber. I have a few ideas on my mind that I would like to propose which could be further refined in accordance with the applicable parliamentary processes: 1. It is undeniable that sections of our society through numerous fora and media have been complaining about maladministration by cabinet ministers viz. low performance on their scorecards, corruption, nepotism, self-enrichment, and the betrayal of true patriotism. I am of the view that this is due to how certain provisions of the constitution have been drafted to prescribe how the president appoints his cabinet from amongst members of parliament. We see instances such as the most recent reshuffle, where the president himself raised concerns about allegations of corruption against some in his cabinet, yet he kept those accused in charge of ministries. In this regard, I believe that parliament through necessary processes should take the opportunity to amend the constitution to empower the state president to appoint cabinet ministers from beyond the cohort of parliamentarians. This proposal is intended to allow the president access to a wider pool of technocrats and professionals who would be selected on the basis of their expertise, report directly to the state president and also be answerable to the people through parliament and its sub committees. In practice, the president would function as the nominating authority, however before appointment, the nominated individual would be subject to appropriate screening and approval by parliamentary committees. 2. In continuing the thought process above, I have observed inconsistencies in fulfilment of the spirit of the ‘Separation of Powers’ between the executive and the legislature. Cabinet ministers (executive) are at the same time members of parliament (legislature). If ministers are meant to be answerable to parliament, yet are themselves members of parliament, does this in essence mean they are answerable to themselves? Is this not in disagreement with the concept of accountability as the executive and the legislature are meant to be separate? With the current state of affairs, parliament is conflicted and at times overruled when they summon ministers. In this proposal, parliament would be able to act independently to ensure delivery of services as they would have power to monitor and evaluate performance and at any time, call a minister to answer to questions on key issues related to their portfolio. 3. I also see a problem with the present composition of parliament. Members of our country’s parliament do not adequately represent the people in the country. Rather, they simply represent the parties on whose list they serve. People do not have much say in the matters concerning them. In this regard, the constitution needs to be revisited so that our government may follow a more representative system that allows for grassroots perspectives to be highly considered. Furthermore, the concept of decentralisation meant to enhance the decision-making power beyond central government has largely been ignored, despite it being enshrined in the constitution. 4. I would also like to appeal to parliament to seriously look into the situation of our national health care and explore laws that could be enacted, leading to a National Health Systems such as those introduced in the United Kingdom 1948, Sweden (1955), Iceland (1956), Norway (1956), Denmark (1961), and Finland (1964) that provides health care and financial protection to all citizens . Currently, we have a system in which quality healthcare is highly privatised and benefits only those who can afford medical aid. Medical aid is expensive! What I have also seen and experienced is that once one goes on retirement and thus no longer has a job, that medical aid falls away. What then happens to all the amounts one spent on medical aid for most of his/her working life? Amounts which, in many cases, may not have even been spent as such person and his/her family were generally in good health, save for the occasional visit to the GP to treat minor conditions such as flus and colds or visits to the dentist, etc. The result is that the poor and old continue to be disadvantaged. As discussed above, this system needs to be relooked at so that a bigger pool of quality medical resources and professionals reaches all Namibians of every economic background. 5. Next is our natural resources. It may be of interest to you that in May 1974, even the United Nations General Assembly reemphasised: “Full permanent sovereignty of every State over its natural resources and all economic activities. In order to safeguard these resources, each State is entitled to exercise effective control over them and their exploitation with means suitable to its own situation, including the right to nationalization or transfer of ownership to its nationals, this right being an expression of the full permanent sovereignty of the State. No State may be subjected to economic, political or any other type of coercion to prevent the free and full exercise of this inalienable Source.” Despite the fact that Namibia is rich in resources, the majority of our people continue to live in poverty. Our wealth fish, gold, uranium, copper, diamonds, etc., are being shipped out by foreign companies to enrich their foreign countries, leaving our people suffering in terrible poverty. New Era reported on 18 April that “Namibia’s exports of precious minerals generated N$23 billion in 2017/2018 financial year. Think about it. For how long will this painful situation of taking our raw minerals to western and eastern countries continue? I do not understand this! Parliament must do something to enact laws that address this issue so that people of communities such as Otjimbingwe, Karibib, Usakos, Okombahe, Khorixas, Omaruru, etc., which are in the vicinity of such resources and indeed the entire nation are not excluded from benefitting. It is understandable that investors, both local and foreign, should gain returns on their investment. However, parliament needs to evaluate these arrangements in consideration of such resolutions as 3201 and 3202 (S-VI) mentioned above. These resolutions provide Namibia with a valid foundation from which she can bargain for the protection of her natural resources to better benefit her citizens. Yes, some of our citizens are employed in these sectors, but it is at the mercy of rich multinational companies. Generally, these jobs are not as secure, thus employees face the risk of job loss due to retrenchments and other factors. And the multinationals do little to reinvest in and enrich the lives of their Namibian employees. In my view, mining licenses and agreements should compel foreign entities to share their expertise with the Namibian people. Namibians must be trained in running the mines and fishing industries, skills and expertise should be shared, and part of the money generated should be invested in setting up sustainable projects for local communities. Namibia, for how long? For how long will my country have to feed foreigners while letting your own children starve of hunger and die of malnutrition and poverty? For how long will your leaders remain fast asleep, while foreigners are stealing your wealth? Leaders, please wake up! 6. Our constitution is hailed worldwide as a brilliant piece of paper. But, in fact, as far as the previously disadvantaged are concerned, it is only mediocre, if even that! It is mostly pro the haves, and against the have-nots, which discredits the achievements of the struggle for independence and freedom of our country. It needs to be revisited so that it can address the plight of previously disadvantaged people. They should and must be treated differently in acquiring land or plots in urban areas. Serious consideration should be given to the voices of young activists such as Mr. Job Amupanda and Mr. Bernadus Swartbooi. Their call brings awareness to the cry of the poor and landless, these voices should not be ignored. If parliament does not stand up together to eliminate poverty by making tough laws against discrimination, self-enrichment, inequality in the ownership of land, etc., the majority of this country will continue to suffer in dire poverty. In addition to making these laws, implementing the laws is of critical importance. Why have the haves become richer and richer, while the have-nots become poorer and poorer? In Namibia today, we hear of some who own vast amounts of arable land of thousands of hectares, while in the same Namibia we have landless people. This unhealthy and sinful situation must not be allowed to continue. We must not become too comfortable with this untransformed and unjust situation. The government must change the attitudes of paying high salaries to government officials, while people at the grassroots suffer of poverty and go to bed hungry. 7. The issue of traditional authorities in the constitution also requires revisiting. I look at the creation and setup of traditional authorities as simply a continuation of the former apartheid regime homelands. The apartheid regime created homelands for Namibian blacks on the basis of their ethnicity, so that they could not unite and become a powerful entity with which the government of that day would have to reckon. The system also created hatred between ethnic groups, thereby strengthening tribal lines. Our present government, by legislating the continued existence of traditional authorities, is grooming and consolidating tribalism thereby creating puppets and weakening the principle of ‘One Namibia, One Nation’. This is not to say that preservation of culture is unimportant. However, traditional authorities should exist organically, rather than by being propped up by government in a way that keeps Namibians divided. The existence of these authorities as government entities requires a serious enquiry and debate, with an outcome that seeks to create one nation and do away with things which do not contribute to national unity and nation building.
New Era Reporter
2018-07-27 09:28:31 8 months ago