Political analysts have given divergent views over the proposition by politicians to erect a parliamentary village which will gulp up about N$650 million of taxpayers’ money to cater for their accommodation.
The proposal comes against the backdrop of DTA president McHenry Venaani having relocated to Katutura to live in a shack during the presidential elections in what many viewed as a populist stance.
Political analyst and Law Professor Nico Horn told The Villager that MPs are only serving their interests, and disregarding those of the vast majority who are more affected by the high property prices.
“Their demand to build a parliamentary village contradicts what President Hage Geingob is trying to achieve by first providing decent accommodation to low-income-earning Namibians. Parliamentarians are paid well, why can’t they build their own houses like the rest of us?” Horn asked.
“The village can wait, and they should rather focus on the developments President Geingob promised the nation”, he added.
Renowned political analyst Phanuel Kaapama corroborated Horn’s sentiments.
“MPs are some of the most highly-paid people in Namibia, and it would be unfair if on top of that, government provides accommodation to them. Becoming MPs was a personal choice for each one of them, so it is against the same background that they should take responsibility and cater for their own accommodation”, he added.
Economic analyst Klaus Schade also weighed in, saying Namibia’s national expenditure priorities should be guided by the priorities in the National Development Plans.
“It would be interesting to conduct a quick cost-benefit analysis of the proposed parliamentary village by comparing the savings to the cost of constructing the village. However, the parliamentary village does not fall under any of our current development priorities,” Schade stressed.
Political analyst Dr Zedekia Ngavirue also feels that “people should talk about the issue on the basis of comparing costs, rather than focusing on emotions.”
Also commenting on the issue, political analyst Dr Hoze Riruako supported the idea, saying the proposed parliamentary village is long-overdue.
“The government already forks out millions to cover for the accommodation needs of MPs. The parliamentary village, although expensive to build, will serve as a long-term solution to any accommodation issues regarding government officials, and has the potential to compete with leading hotels as far as housing dignitaries is concerned”, he stated.
The political view
Speaking to The Villager this week, DTA National Secretary for Information and Publicity Lascan Sikosi opposed the idea, saying government should rather divert the funds towards land reform and employment-creation.
“MP’s already receive benefits, including transport and housing allowances. They should shift their priorities and solve the pressing land issue in the country,” he stated.
Founding member and administrative secretary of the Workers’ Revolutionary Party (WRP) Erika Beukes shared similar sentiments.
“It is not important to us whether they get it or not, but I would like to suggest that they use existing buildings rather than building new ones,” she stated.
In addition, Republican Party (RP) president Henk Mudge also slammed the idea, saying accommodation costs are covered in the housing allowance the MPs receive.
“I will never agree with the construction of a parliamentary village, but I will suggest that the money planned to use for the project rather be redirected to MPs’ pension scheme,” Mudge said.
Meanwhile, Swapo Secretary-General Nangolo Mbumba said the issue is out of the ruling Swapo-Party’s hands, and it is now a parliamentary matter.
“Swapo is represented in Parliament. This is not an independent issue, so I cannot give you an independent comment,” he stated.
Rally for Democracy and Progress’ (RDP) acting president Steve Bezuidenhoudt embraced the idea, adding that it is necessary that government provides housing for MPs.
“MPs who stay outside Windhoek are often faced with the challenge of accommodation and should there be a parliamentary village, they will no longer struggle,” Bezuidenhoudt said.
All People’s Party (APP) president Ignatius Shixwameni said “it is not a completely outlandish idea. I am fortunate enough to have lived in Windhoek long enough to buy a house, but some of the other comrades do not have that luxury and are often forced to look for accommodation when they come, and pay high rent prices for a house they only use for a month or less at a time”.
He further suggested that government renovates the existing government flats to serve as the parliamentary village, adding that Namibia won’t be the only country with special accommodation places for parliamentarians as countries like Zambia, South Africa and Lesotho all have parliamentary villages.
“It does not need to be a house, even a two-bedroom flat would work. We are trying to dispel the notion that politicians are only serving their interests. It is a separate issue, but top priority must still go to those who need it the most,” Shixwameni said.
SWANU president Usutuaije Maamberua shot down those critics who say the parliamentary village is unique to Namibia, and that he supports it 100%.
“It is very important and critical, first of all because parliamentarians cannot be expected to have houses in two places, and when the village is not being used by parliamentarians, then it could be rented out, thus generating income,” Maamberua explained.
He said the village would be an added advantage as it would strengthen relationships between politicians in terms of team-building.
NUDO secretary-general Meundju Jahanika also expressed enthusiasm at the prospect, adding that the village will not only benefit parliamentarians, but any member of the public seeking affordable accommodation.
“Many parliamentarians are currently sharing rooms and suffering. We do not want free accommodation, but want affordable accommodation,” Jahanika said.