For the People – The Namibian

For the People - The Namibian
For the People - The Namibian

Africa-PressNamibia. PRESIDENT Hage Geingob could not have better summed up the results of last week’s local and regional authority elections. Namibian voters are genuinely the winners.

The results have already forced our newly elected officials to seek coalitions with one another. In essence, the voters are making politicians focus on the services that the public need rather than jockeying for positions. Politicians’ pronouncements on the need to work together are hopefully grounded in the realisation that voters will keep them on a short leash by outsourcing just enough power to get the job done rather than a complete delegation of authority and blind trust.A lot has been said about Swapo’s loss of power to opposition parties, but those offering alternatives to the majority party would be well advised to realise that voters are increasingly appreciating how to use the levers of power. Across Namibia’s 14 regions and about 60 municipal and village councils, the underlying message from voters, considering the margins between victors and losers, appears to be a call for service delivery.Usually more of a rabble-rouser, the capital city’s new mayor, Job Amupanda, may well have provided the makings of an ideal blueprint to ensure that Windhoek residents have access to their councillors.Amupanda has proposed that Windhoek’s 15 city councillors each be allocated an area so that residents know who to raise their issues with in order to inform policy direction.While being in such an ideologically and values-fragmented coalition can complicate delivering on promises, the idea of carving up Windhoek into wards may well force the parliamentary ruling party, Swapo, to finally introduce the ward system.Swapo scrapped the ward system in the 1990s purportedly to promote the role of women by having a party list system. In reality, the ruling party wanted to impose councillors on the voting public. Last week’s results suggest that voters want direct representation whereby they can hold individual councillors responsible for basic services in their area.It is great to see that Amupanda and his fellow councillors in Windhoek are not waiting on the central government.They can and should do even better. For a start, they should introduce improved measures on transparency and accountability in the overall interest of enhancing good governance.One way would be to have a budget process that is informed by public participation. It would give residents a direct say in how the ratepayers’ funds should be spent.Currently, rates in major towns have been increased with little transparency on why residents have to cough up more in the face of diminishing services.It is not difficult to guess that a chunk of the funds goes to a bloated and overpaid staff, especially management. Small wonder there is always infighting.For example, how does the City of Windhoek justify paying its chief executive N$350 000 a month, and other top managers about N$200 000 a month?The new councillors should rein in such outlays that see Windhoek pay its managers on par with mega cities such as Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. And we wonder why Namibia has a handful of people who are stinking rich while others struggle to access even basic services like running water in the capital.Like its predecessors, the new council faces a myriad of problems. Expectations are high in a city where problems such as sanitation, water and housing continue to rise. While Amupanda has been given an open mandate – he was elected mayor unopposed – he cannot do it alone. He will especially need the support of his organisation’s coalition partners – the IPC, PDM and Nudo, who make up the city’s management council, as well as fellow LPM and Swapo councillors. Councillors need to put aside personal ambitions and grudges and work in the interest of the people who elected them. We cannot afford to lose sight of the essence and values of democracy – for the people and by the people.Our new councillors better get the message.

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