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Honourables not so parliamentary

by Jeremiah Ndjoze

As the 5th session of Parliament gets under way, members of the legislative arm of Government lamented the somewhat informal manner in which MPs conduct themselves during sessions.
Secretary General of the National Union Democratic Organisation (Nudo), Asser Mbai maintained that ongoing mockery among politicians and partisan politicking within the House overshadows the parliamentarians’ deliberations on issues of national importance.
“Parliamentarians continuously make fun of each other in the August House at the detriment of the real issues,” Mbai said. Mbai is a former Nudo parliamentarian.  
Echoing this sentiment was Member of Parliament and President of the DTA of Namibia, Katuutire Kaura.  
Kaura said members of the ruling Swapo party are not tolerant to the issues raised by the opposition hence they tend to constantly disrupt the proceedings whenever opposition members take the floor to table a motion.
“It’s not un-parliamentary to stand on a point of order but it becomes unacceptable if the particular member’s aim is to disrupt the entire presentation. There’s need for the ruling party to become tolerant and to understand that as members of Parliament, we are bound to disagree but that shouldn’t spell an end to our democracy,” Kaura said.
“In other countries, when a member of parliament takes the floor, other people in the house listen attentively irrespective of the political affiliations of the honourable member. That, unfortunately, is not the case in Namibia,” he said.
Mbai called for the inclusion of more young parliamentarians from their respective party so as to cut down on the counter productive rhetoric that normally is centred on liberation credentials and past differences.    
While there has been a lot of disorderly behaviour from politicians at the beginning of the previous session of Parliament, according to the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), the situation changed for the better towards the end of that session.
“Some of us were unruly in our behaviour at the beginning but this gradually changed as we neared the end of that season and one can only hope that it continues to improve,” RDP Secretary General, Jesaya Nyamu said.
The All People’s Party’s leader, Ignatius Shixuameni reminded fellow parliamentarians that as elected members of the communities, they are there to represent the interest of their communities.
As such, Shixuameni told The Villager, parliamentarians have to maintain regular contact with communities in order to ensure that their debates in Parliament remain relevant to the needs of the people.  
“We cannot debate like some silly kids who think they know everything, because we are there to cater for the needs of the people,” he said.
“The ruling party should also be forthcoming in welcoming contributions from the opposition,” he added.
President of the SWANU of Namibia, Usutuaije Maamberua concurred with the former in that motions tabled in Parliament should be relevant to the needs of the masses.
 “We should refrain from tabling abstract motions and focus on those that address issues, which are imperative to our people’s welfare,” Maamberua said.
The parliamentarian, who is also the chairperson of the National Assembly’s parliamentary standing committee for public accounts hailed the idea of taking Parliament to the people, which was mooted by then speaker of Parliament, the late Mosé Tjitendero.
He urged parliamentary committees to utilise the opportunity and to increase the amount of members, which they dispatch to the various regions.
“We in the public accounts committee will, as of this year, invite the general public to our public hearings in order to enhance that participatory democracy. In the past, we have only invited journalists,” he concluded.
The issue of participatory democracy was at the heart of President Hifikepunye Pohamba’s address at the opening of Parliament this week.
Pohamba urged both the National Assembly and the National Council to strengthen their outreach programmes and conduct more public hearings on Bills tabled in Parliament, so as to incorporate the views and opinions of the populace in the law-making process.
“Parliament should consider creative and innovative ideas of interacting with the public. “Parliament can, for instance, harness the power of information and communication technology to interact with schools and tertiary education institutions,” Pohamba said. Production of newsletters and regular visits to the communities were also cited as viable alternatives.