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The illusion of democratic constitutionalism

2018-12-07  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

The illusion of democratic constitutionalism
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Currently local authorities are going through some motions involving reassigning serving office-bearers.
While in some authorities these motions have been as peaceful and democratic as they ought to be, in some this has not been the case.
Palace revolutions seem to have been raging across these localities - some masterminded and imposed from high echelons of political formations.  
One of such reference is the Okahandja municipality which saw the swearing in of the local town governing team halted by some unsatisfied members of the council, opposed in particular to the re-appointment of Congo Hindjou as mayor. 

There is also the issue of the Oshakati newly anointed councilors who have been recalled by Swapo for not complying with the directive of the party’s secretary-general(SG).
Swapo SG Sophia Shaningwa understandably directed the appointment of Onesmus Shilunga as chairperson of the management committee. “You are hereby directed to inform all local authority councilors at Oshakati Town Council on the Swapo ticket that they are withdrawn with immediate effect until further notice,” reads her directive reportedly. 

It has not been clear what informed the directive, and whether it was democratic, unilateral or dictatorial. Granted that is the cultural essence of a directive within the ruling party, where consultation is sometimes a rare commodity.

The issue here is not the power per se of the SG to direct local authorities how and who to elect to the various positions, but its democratic essence. Indeed if there must have been truthfully such a directive, one would want to believe that it could not have come from the SG unilaterally. 
There must have been some consultative process, involving without failure the local structures. It should not be a matter of magnanimity, nicety and/or pleasure of the SG, but as a dictate of democratic centralism, which one assumes Swapo adheres to.
Otherwise it is beyond comprehension how party structures at district and local level could have gone against the SG direction and guidance if the necessary consultations had taken place.

Certainly, one cannot believe that the Swapo Party constitution gives the SG so much powers to unilaterally direct local structures, which must also have their own local democratic  content and intent based on their own local dynamics, to guide them in such processes.  
Needless to say, the party central organs must not only be conscious of the local party dynamics and processes, but must also respect the capability, competence, sensitivity and autonomy of the local structures to make their own decisions based on local conditions and dynamics provided the necessary consultations between the central organs of the party and the periphery took place.

One would want to believe that even the SG’s preferred candidate could not have emerged out of limbo without the requisite democratic consultations, only to be imposed on the local structure (s). 

Whatever may have transpired and whatever the decision-making process may have prevailed, one cannot but assume that in the end the local democratic process should have carried the day. 

But a directive is all and just what  it must have been with the local structures, as they ordinarily should, having duly considered the directive, coming to own local decision(s). 

Otherwise after due consideration of the directive, and without disrespect for the SG’s directive, nevertheless the local structures have come to the decision they may have come to, which cannot and should necessarily not be seen as ignoring the SG’s directive, but that the decision either away, must have been taken by the local decision-makers with due regard to both the directive, and the local circumstances. 

Normally, any decision taken at the local level, provided it is democratic, cannot be subjected to a directive from the central level, which for that matter may necessarily not have been subjected to any democratic  rigours for that matter.  
No amount of constitutionality should convince any constitutionalist other than the process expounded hereby - the bottom line of which is due consultations between the central and the periphery. 

This should be the golden rule not only within the Swapo Party, but within every political formation in Namibia guided by the constitution foremost, and also by the rule of law, including the principles of natural justice. 

Last but not the least, the matter raises an interesting question about accountability (to whom are the councillors accountable?).  One would have thought councilors are first and foremost accountable and answerable to the electorate, and in this regard one cannot but wonder where the electorate is in such scenarios?

2018-12-07  Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Tags: Khomas
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