Want some insight in Namibian politics? I am no expert but have 16 years (1995-2011) of writing on Namibian politics in The Namibian newspaper and can probably offer you a bit more than you know about the who's who in the Namibian political zoo. You will also find a few articles commenting on other issues of concern in the country. Hope you find it interesting. - Christof

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Executive Mayors: Shouldn’t Be A Jobs-For-Comrades Scheme

IT seems like it is a given that executive mayors will soon be appointed to run cities and towns alongside chief executive officers on a full-time basis.

I have my reservations about the pace of introduction, how the appointments will be made, affordability of the position as well as how the reporting channels would work.
Local Government Minister Jerry Ekandjo this week again announced his intentions to push through the appointment of executive mayors in full-time positions.
Local authorities are also pushing for the appointment of full-time councillors but that’s non-negotiable in my view. To do precisely what when there are already so many council employees? I’m not prepared to entertain the possibility.
Some countries have executive mayors but they come with very strict working conditions and goals.
I believe that Namibian councillors, especially in the management which is supposed to have a bird’s eye view of council operations, operate in a ‘meeting councillors’ environment. Their only major task currently is to attend meetings and many do not have an in-depth knowledge of the workings of councils.
Getting a full-time executive mayor will thus be slightly more affordable rather than put councillors on such terms.
Such a mayor should run with the implementation of decisions in tandem with a chief executive officer (CEO). If the two operate well together, it could improve the speed of implementation of decisions by the administration.
Currently, we have management committees but they are part-time and their monitoring of the implementation of decisions is limited to the times they meet.
Because of the dynamics of local authorities, I prefer that executive mayors be elected instead of being appointed by a Minister or the President. They must be accountable to the voters.
Having said that, it might be difficult for reporting systems because voters will have a tough time to measure the success of such a person since they do not always have access to information which will help them to do so.
However, if they are appointed directly by either the Minister or the President, clear goals can be set and regular assessments conducted to measure the implementation of such targets.
Currently, the President appoints regional governors.
My problem with the appointment of the governors is the lack of clarity on their accountability.
We have no idea about the goals set for them, how they are measured and what will happen if they are not achieved. Basically the same which applies to the Ministers, whom, we are told, supposedly report to the President (appointing authority) at quarterly intervals.
For transparency’s sake, President Hifikepunye Pohamba needs to reveal the targets he set for each Minister and governor upon his or her appointment. Are they just appointments or performance contracts, for instance? If someone does not perform, what happens to them? Can they be fired or will they continue to collect fat cheques until the five year cycle is completed?
If we don’t know their targets, they remain solely accountable to State House and not to the electorate.
When such circumstances prevail, governance becomes pathetic.
It is partly the reason why some regional councils as well as ministries operate on an ‘auto-pilot’ system. You hardly hear what some governors, for instance, do.
With executive mayors, we need to bring in efficiency.
For starters, get people with good educational backgrounds who will drive the economy of a town and have a good world-view.
You can’t give someone with a narrow view millions and expect them to deliver! You might lead them into corruption. In other words, we need to scale up big time to get better outcomes.
I must hasten to caution that the negative to an executive mayor would be that they can become too powerful through either close links with the CEO or staff members. In the process they can destroy a council.
Others could be engaged in constant in-fighting with staff or CEOs and this could be to the detriment of the entire council.
But what is certain is that we don’t need a jobs-for-comrades scheme or to just get cadres of the ruling party in a opposition-dominated council. That also shouldn’t be the objective of executive mayors.
Those in authority need to think thoroughly before pushing through the changes to the appointment of executive mayors.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Succession In The Opposition: Time For Some To Make Way

IN less than four years Namibians will head back to the polling stations to elect a new president.

But too much time is spent on the Swapo succession race when there are other parties which need to get their houses in order.
The Rally for Democracy and Progress, DTA of Namibia, United Democratic Front of Namibia and the National Unity Democratic Organisation all need new leaders if they are to be agents of change in the coming elections.
Together with Swapo, the political parties need not only to look for a younger president but also involve youth in the country’s mainstream politics.
Currently Namibians are preoccupied with everyday worries from the scores of people flocking the rubbish dumpsites to make ends meet with what other people see as health-hazardous garbage, hundreds of thousands who don’t have jobs, or enough to eat, or clean water, or a roof over their heads, or access to quality education and safe neighbourhoods and access to healthcare.
So a debate about a presidential candidate, especially in the opposition political parties, will probably be eclipsed by concerns about these tough economic times and how people struggle just to hold on to what they have.
But politics is also a bread and butter issue.
Whoever takes office as a leader of the country, in most cases, decides the path the rest of the country takes in future.
Thus, even if, judging by the current political environment, it might not look like the opposition will take over State House in three years’ time, there is nevertheless a need for introspection for those parties.
Before I look at what’s available and throw in some younger names as possible options, I need to point out that opposition parties need to move away from ‘opposition politics’ which is built on statements and rallies focussed mainly on criticising Swapo rather than rallying the masses to provide change from grassroots.
That is also one of the main reasons why many parties are dying a slow and painful death. Most will look like the real ‘new kid on the block’ for a year, or at most three, but quickly start to fade away, giving voters very little, if any, optimism.
Thus, unless opposition parties get beyond the attitude of criticism to build an alternative that will resonate with the majority, Swapo might well rule until “Jesus comes back”, as one of the party leaders recently said.
At Independence the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance was Namibia’s main opposition with 21 seats in the National Assembly. Today they have only two.
The party went on a serious backwards slide.
Current leader Katuutire Kaura (70) took over in 1999 after Mishake Muyongo went into exile following the Caprivi secession.
Under Kaura the support base did not only gradually thin out but the National Unity Democratic Organisation and Republican Party left the DTA.
Kaura is a well-oiled speaker and someone with good ideas, but his time at the party’s helm is up.
In 2005 the young McHenry Venaani prematurely challenged him but Kaura managed to see him off in style.
In fact, Venaani’s challenge also cost him the party’s secretary general position and ultimately a seat in the National Assembly where he had made mature input during debates.
With the experience he picked up, Venaani could be a good candidate who will not only draw votes from his tribal background, but also from people, young and old, who want intelligent debate and action.
Another leader whose time is long up is Justus //Garoeb (69 year in December) who heads UDF since 1989.
//Garoeb is a respected politician by both friend and foe in the National Assembly but he is hardly there!
Also, under him the UDF has lost appeal – losing members of the alliance as well as a number of seats in Parliament.
UDF has a couple of leaders they can rely. Among them is Sebastian !Gobs (43) – the regional councillor for Khorixas and someone who has shown vigour.
Another candidate would be the Kamanjab constituency councillor Dudu Murorua (who will be 53 in a few days). The former governor of Kunene has shown the leadership required to rejuvenate the party. He is far from the truck driver and farm foreman that he was at some point during his youth.
I also believe that the next ballot papers should not carry the image of Kuaima Riruako (76).
Not only is he the oldest Member of Parliament, but there is a need for the Nudo leader to follow his age-mate President Hifikepunye Pohamba when he retires.
Even though Arnold Tjihuiko (61) is not so young anymore, he has been very vocal in the National Assembly and could push on for a few more years.
I am sure that, just as Nudo surprised us with Tjihuiko appearing second on their list in 2004, they have other candidates in the offing.
If Hidipo Hamutenya (72) harboured aspirations of forming an own party or leading an opposition party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress came a bit late for him.
The former Minister, with many years of experience in international diplomacy, was followed out of the party by a host of his supporters. Even before he left, Jesaya Nyamu (three years Hamutenya’s junior) became the first senior Swapo figure to be expelled since 1990.
Nyamu took the beatings for his former high school mate Hamutenya but the former Minister of Trade and also Mines, who defended Epupa and Ramatex vigorously, is not exactly young enough to take over the leadership.
Again, RDP also have scores of more youthful leaders waiting in the wings.
But the youngbloods can only emerge once others have made room.
It makes sense, and it is the right time, for the above leaders to make way.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Messing With The Press

THERE is a disturbing new trend in town. Journalists, already registered and accredited by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, are forced to get additional licensing for access to almost every event.

It’s one communication that Namibian journalists don’t want to get of late: a notice for accreditation. But that’s happening increasingly - almost on a fortnightly basis.
What those who do it don’t know is that it is illegal to demand accreditation to conferences. There is no law permitting the authorities to demand that journalists have those unnecessary cards which pile up on their desks every week.
Not only are the cards unnecessary because the journalists are already accredited with the ICT ministry, but also because it is such a hassle to get them.
Government argues that the registration and accreditation of journalists is undertaken to ‘empower’ them. It means they can access certain places such as State House with reasonable ease.
However, it is of no help when they have to re-do the process with the visit of every Head of State, Prime Minister, Minister or other foreign dignitary as well as almost every other local conference where they receive ham-handed treatment by organisers or those employed to facilitate the process.
Shouldn’t we embrace media coverage? If so, don’t curb it by making it difficult for journalists to have access to information.
In any case, the next morning, all those who made it such a mission for journalists to cover their events, still buy newspapers on their way to the offices to read about themselves or sit patiently in front of television each evening hoping to see coverage of these functions. They seek fame like bees seek honey but will not grant those who will afford them such a chance easy access to information.
I tend to think that such people have political agendas that appear to be media headline driven while they are hyper security-conscious. For what reasons, I don’t know, because the closest a journalist has got to attacking a leader in the recent past was by throwing a shoe at George W Bush!
In most cases the accreditation process is so disorganised that the event starts or is over before the accreditation is finalised.
This because of faulty machinery, bad planning and unnecessarily tight security contributing to reporters struggling to secure their accreditation for admittance to such venues.
Personally, I have witnessed instances where several accreditation forms were submitted by people who were not even journalists! We call them spies or spooks.
I have no grudges if journalists are asked to get accreditation for a visiting Head of State or other Very Important Person (VIP) as our Government, like others the world over, is probably worried about terrorists or foreign intelligence operatives infiltrating such venues.
But there have been cases where even intelligence personnel circumvent security checks by supplying details of journalists or pretended to be working for certain institutions such as The Namibian and got away with the cards.
So why not use the already existing media cards? These are checked over time by the Ministry of Information and since we are a small population with an equally small group of scribes, almost everyone knowing the other. In any case, even the intelligence already have the details of most (controversial) journalists!
Judging from the amount of accreditation going on in the country, I have started wondering whether someone is not getting a kickback for giving out the job to a certain company.. Or who is making money from printing the cards which no one even looks at once conferences start?
The media, like any other profession, should abide by the laws of this country but we have the right to defend our turf when something illegal is imposed upon us and licensing is one of them.
As it is now, the accreditation process is just time-consuming, negatively affects production and deadlines and is just an outright waste of public funds.
Let's do away with it.