The Association of Local Authorities in Namibia (ALAN) is advocating for the amendment of the mayoral term by increasing it to five years and increase the salary bill burden on the Ministry of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development (MRLGHRD).
The proposition is party of a local authority reform intended to among other things, create a formal system of governance where central, regional and local governments function are unified to foster development, strengthen the capacity of local authorities, sustain the capacity of local authorities, increase accountability and strengthen institutional framework.
ALAN also has the backing of Namibia Association of Local Authorities Officers (Nalao).
Nalao’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Nathaniel Araseb said they have opened debate with Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development and stake holders on the issue.
“It’s already a proposal (draft policy paper), and that process already started with then Minister. We support it 100% because sometimes we develop programmes for a period of up to four years with the sitting Mayor but at the time of implementation another Mayor might not be impressed and it’s back to square one," Araseb said, maintaining that such practice undermines development.
Araseb also said once a five year term is given the Mayors must become full time in order to do their job efficiently.
“Their schedules are always tight for example if you see the schedule of the Mayor of Windhoek it already looks like that of a full time employee, so it makes sense for Mayors to be full time. But it depends on the finances. And it is possible if there is proper subsidy from the central government,” he said.
Araseb added that, “In principle there seem to be an agreement, but the only difficult part is who will pay. (Whether it’s the central government or Municipalities). The Ministry has more information regarding the proposal”.
Ministry not aware
The Minister of MRLGHRD, Major General Charles Namoloh however said he was not aware of any proposal.
“Ask the council, they did not present anything to me. I am not aware. There are no Executive Mayors in Namibia they are all part time. What if they are given a five year term and then they are transferred. I have not been presented with any information whatsoever to consider the five year term,” he said.
Meanwhile Tsumeb Municipality CEO Archie Benjamin said a five year term it’s an international practice which has been found sufficient for any leader in any position.
“It doesn’t bear any fruit to have a Mayor come in and leave quickly, because the mayor needs to learn the ropes in the first and second year and then implement the plans in the next three years," he said.
He maintained that the issues that Mayors deal with are of a complex nature and this makes it practically difficult for them to fit them all in one year. "In some cases the Mayor will find plans that were introduced seven years ago, how does the Mayor then deal with that kind of situation. My say is that if they are not given a five year term, then there should some form of continuity. There must be no dramatic changes it doesn’t help the town,” he said.
Echoing Benjamin’s sentiments is Eenhana Town Council’s CEO, Walde Ndevashiya saying that having a Mayor serving for five years it’s in the best interest of any town.
“It depends on the level of development but talking from a personal experience I think it will be in the best interest because the Mayor is the political head of the town and he or she is responsible for local economic development initiatives for the town," he said.
He added, "Having a Mayor serving a one year term is very disruptive in terms of continuity. Why do you have people like Ministers and other politicians at the top serving a five year term but when it comes down to the Mayors it’s just one. There are no financial implications because the government can just pay like they pay other politicians,” he said.
The outgoing City of Windhoek’s Chief Executive Officer, Niilo Taapopi refrained from making a personal comment focusing instead to make a reference to the Local Authorities Act, 1992 (Act No. 23 of 1992).
“The Act is clear that a Mayor should just be appointed on a one year term so if they want to be appointed on a five year term then that act has to be amended. Now it’s just in the white paper and those things goes through ALAN. But if they want five years everything has to be discussed and the Act has to change,” he said.
While the plan is still in its infants a document in possession of The Villager shows that the municipalities and local authorities will among other things remove the 5% property tax, regularize informal settlements, assigning revenue responsibility for decentralized functions and reorient the trust funds and equity provisions act.