Some Advice for Opposition parties

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK “Cut-throat money politics is a relatively recent phenomenon in social history.” The Speaker of the National Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, expressed this view when he officially opened a three-day Parliamentary conference. “African opposition parties and other formations out of parliament have consistently shown a poor performance record for a long time now. Many are splinter groups, some are stuck in the past that people are hostile to, and others have not quite found their ways in the rough and tumble competitive power struggle,” Gurirab said. Representatives of opposition parties from four European and 20 African countries are attending the conference, which is being held in Namibia for the third time by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung. “Some opposition parties … tend to diminish their credibility in the eyes of the public and they are called unsavoury names. What is characteristic about this situation is fragmentation and in-fighting. Change is inevitable in the long run, but change benefits only those who are daring, prepared and ready to seize the hour,” Gurirab warned. According to the Speaker, transparency and disclosure of funding political parties would put up challenges for any country that wants to ensure levelling of the playing field and promoting free and fair elections. “This is especially the case in emerging democracies where civil society and the media lack resources and sophistication. Also where legal and regulatory mechanisms for this are inadequate as again in most African countries. In the USA the law allows only funding for presidential campaigns and the Federal Election Commission reviews financial reports by all contributors. However, big money finds its way in the treasure troves of political parties, leaders and candidates one way or another. That is the big problem,” he said. Gurirab warned against the continued existence of nasty habits of the past that stubbornly endure. “Arrogance of power and dirty money being used to subvert political stability and the democratic process in some targeted African countries are deplorable examples. Dialogue is a better way than the regime change option. In Namibia the State provides funding for all political parties in parliament on a proportional basis, with of course, the governing party getting the lion’s share,” Gurirab said. Not surprisingly the minority parties are vociferously complaining about this and demanding a different formula, nothing short of equal distribution of the cake in their view. “I suppose there are various kinds of permutations in the world that may fit different situations and make everybody happy. Africa is best left to help itself, a cynic has said. Many believe the colonial legacy of exploitation and neglect are to be blamed for the lingering chaos, mayhem and shortcomings in Africa. That is why democratization, transformation and development are sluggish and meandering as we see them today. Let us Africans put trust in science and technology, engineering, ICT, investment and trade to uplift our continent. We can and we must do it,” Gurirab encouraged. “Right now we in Africa need to do something and do it really fast, about education, healthcare and housing for all; find a cure for HIV/AIDS; provide clean drinking water and electricity for the poor and convince the world to stop spending astronomical sums of money on nuclear bombs and other weapons of mass destruction. These are the real challenges we are facing,” he concluded.