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Opinion - Dissecting Namibia’s wasteful political governance system

2021-01-08  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Dissecting Namibia’s wasteful political governance system

Tjekupe Maximalliant Katjimune

When the Constituent Assembly adopted the Namibian constitution on 9 February 1990, it proclaimed Namibia as a Unitary State in terms of Chapter 1, Article 1 (1) of the constitution. 
It is not surprising that the Constituent Assembly at that particular point adopted unitarism as the preferred system of governance for the new democratic dispensation. 

It is common cause that a unitary state was the preferred system of governance for the vast majority of African democracies post-independence. 

In fact, more than 50 African states were unitary in their nature by 1990. This is largely due to the political, social and cultural history and associations that define the significant majority of African countries. 

In his PhD thesis titled ‘Origins of the Centralised Unitary State with Special Reference to Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia’, Dr Clive Napier correctly asserts that Africa states before and after independence have shown a propensity for ‘Statism’. 
In Political Science, statism refers to the centralisation of political and economic activity which is largely vested in the central government. 
It is also common cause that the many African states experienced varying to extreme levels of violence and instability before independence. 
Hence, it just made sense to the Constituent Assembly at the time that unitarism was the modus operandi of political governance that was to be adopted.

The fundamental question that we ought to ask ourselves 30 years after independence is; What has Namibia done with this unitary state? How have we adopted and developed unitarism in the Namibian context? 

And is our current political governance structure doing us any favour in terms of achieving the goals we have benchmarked for ourselves as a nation? These are questions we would have to dissect carefully, honestly and critically. 

Let us start dissecting the purpose of a structure such as the National Council. Being at the highest level of government in terms of the legislature, the National Council was established in 1992 as the ‘Upper House’ of Parliament by Chapter 8, Article 68 of the Namibian constitution. In terms of Article 75(1) and Article 75(2) of the Constitution, the National Council receives and considers bills referred to it by the National Assembly. 

However, a closer reading of the text in the Namibian constitution reveals to us that the National Council is quite a wasteful structure for the taxpayer. 
While the National Council does have the power of review as contemplated in Article 75 of the constitution, such powers are limited and superficial because the constitution makes it expressly clear that once the National Council amends a particular bill and sends it back to the National Assembly, the National Assembly can still pass such bill in its in original form by a 2/3rds or simple majority, subject to the president assenting such bill in terms of Article 56 of the constitution. 

It, therefore, follows that the National Council has actually no real powers, and is a structure that is bleeding taxpayer’s money unrelenting and without purpose.
As scholars of Political Science, we would have understood that the purpose of the legislature when they established the National Council was to serve as a ‘House of Correction’, wherein the mistakes of the ‘Lower House’, the National Assembly, would be rectified for greater common good and purpose of the Namibian people. 

We would also have understood if the National Council was the final house of review, and would serve a mandate equal to that of the Supreme Court of Namibia. It also becomes clear that the Namibian legislator at the time of the setting up of the National Council wanted to copy and paste a legislative accountability approach such as the one performed by the United States Senate, but actually gave the National Council much less power. 

It, therefore, falls in the deeper analysis that the National Council is quite a wasteful structure. It is either the legislature gives the National Council express power and mandate to be the House of Review or it gives it no power at all. In its current form, we should seriously interrogate whether we do actually need the National Council.  

Secondly, it is important to interrogate a structure such as the Regional Council, which is comprised of Regional Councillors from 121 constituencies in their respective regions. It is eventually 3 members from each 14 political Regional Council’s that are elected by their respective Regional Council’s to go represent their constituencies, their regions and the nation in the ‘House of Review’, the National Council. 
Now the Regional Council is a structure created in terms of the Regional Councils Act 22 of 1992. With such a huge name and contestation at the Regional and Local Authority elections, one would expect that Regional Councillors are public servants that are vested with an imperative mandate to deliver services closer to the people. 

Indeed, this assertion is wrong, nothing in the Namibian constitution in terms Article 108 or the Act establishing Regional Councils gives Regional Councillors any real statutory powers to effect any real development for which they have been perceived to be elected. The question then stands; why does the taxpayer need to pay 121 Regional Councillors huge amounts of money if they actually do not have any statutory powers to bring forth development? More ridiculously, the powers of the Regional Councillor and that of the Governor and the Chairperson of the Regional Management Committee seems to be duplicated, an unfortunate set of events which are a burden to the taxpayer.

In conclusion, two things need to happen; its either we get rid of the National Council and the Regional Council altogether, or we empower them to get the necessary statutory powers to effect real development. In the meantime, I submit that they remain a waste for taxpayers.

2021-01-08  Staff Reporter

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