It is commonly believed the world over that a strong opposition presence is needed in any parliamentary democracy for its sound working and to keep the government of the day in check in the execution of its functions.
This is even truer in a situation like Namibia where the legislative arm of Government is dominated by the executive as more than half of the National Assembly (NA) members are ministers and their deputies.
However, opposition party members of parliament (MPs) have been found wanting over the years and debate from opposing parties have deteriorated rather than improved over the years giving the ruling Swapo party almost a free reign in the NA.
When the Rally for Democracy (RDP) was sworn in as the official opposition in 2010, many pundits expected fireworks as veteran politicians who have spent the better parts of the political lives at the helm of Swapo such as its President, Hidipo Hamutenya, Secretary General Jesaya Nyamu and former National Council (NC) Chairperson Kandy Nehova would make their former comrades sweat.
The RDP has turned out to be a disappointment.
Their MPs debates are lukewarm, at times apologetic, while they have failed to take the fight to their former allies; perhaps a case of ‘we know too much of each other’?
If we are all, or most of us, in agreement with Benjamin Disraeli’s dictum that “no government can long be secure without a formidable opposition”, then the current opposition parties and not necessarily the Government, are failing the electorate.
What they fail to gain in numbers when they are outvoted by Swapo using its two-third majority, they should make up for in sagacious and highly coherent and articulate debates.
The Congress of Democrats (CoD), during its stint as the official opposition with the likes of Ignatius Shixwameni, Elizabeth Amukugo, Linus Chata, Nora Schimming-Chase and Tsudao Gurirab, could take the fight to the ruling party anytime with Swapo party intellectuals left perplexed, only smiling while their backbenchers would shout meaningless interruptions that served no purpose.
The DTA of Namibia had McHenry Venaani.
The RDP has the likes of Hibolly Haufiku, Jeremiah Nambinga, Kashuume and even Rudolf Kamborona on the sidelines while the likes of Heicko Lucks, Anton von Wietersheim, Peter Naholo and Agnes Limbo are failing to make the grade while Hamutenya and Nehova should rather call it quits and join the Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma and Herman Andimba Toivo ya Toivo in the club of retirees where they can converse over the good old days when they were still buddies.
Steve Bezuidenthout, the party’s second in command, seems to be the only bright spark though he only mostly pronounces himself on information technology and communications matters.
We need young blood in opposition parties that would actively participate in debates and keep the ruling party on its toes; ever ready to expose its wrongs.
The less said about Paramount Chief Kuaima Riruako of NUDO and Chief Justus //Garoeb of the UDF of Namibia, the better.
The likes of DTA president Katuutire Kaura and his long-time ally Phillemon Moongo, and UDF’s new NA entrant, Daniel Tjongarero should, in the interests of the electorate, resign and hand the reins over to new people with fresh ideas and guide them only from the sidelines.
Swanu of Namibia’s Usutaije Maamberua, NUDO’s Arnold Tjihuiko and Shixwameni now with APP, are just about the only bright sparks from opposition benches in the current NA while Ben Ulenga of CoD has been very quiet ever since his party was negated from being the official opposition.
The lone Republican Party mp in the NA seems to be still learning her ropes in the august House as a late entrant.
Probably, the time has come when opposition parties should forget their so-called “differences” and unite as a force as it is quite evidently clear the world over that democracy has worked the most effectively when there is one strong opposition party waiting in the wings to take over when the ruling party messes up.
One strong opposition party would also go a long way in eliminating issues of tribal, racial and demographic differences that seem to be the major reason for so many political parties in a country of just over two million people.
Most opposition parties have failed the voting masses as they themselves have not succeeded to deepen democracy in their own structures before they could be expected to question and hold the ruling party accountable for its actions.
Most political parties in the country – at least those in which there is some kind of accountability – will hold their elective meetings of leaders whether they are called congresses or whatever this year or next year and it would be interesting to note whether or not there will be any shifts in the top structures of most.
At least the ruling party is almost sure to see some major changes at its apex as incumbent Head of State, President Hifikepunye Pohamba nears the end of his second term in office and as such, his successor should be anointed at the December congress.
In fact, the ruling party already made a major shift at the top when Nujoma stepped down as its president despite not constitutionally or otherwise obligated by Swapo to do so.