Parliament Meets the People

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By Surihe Gaomas Rundu The recent Outreach Programme of ‘Taking Parliament to the People’ in the Kavango and Caprivi regions involving the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Doreen Sioka and other parliamentarians has been described a resounding success. For most of the residents who attended the community meetings in these two regions, the visit was not only informative, but an ideal platform for local people to voice their concerns about development challenges and achievements over the past 16 years. The visit was held under the theme: ‘Consulting Constituencies on Service Delivery’. Over the past two weeks, the Deputy Speaker, who was accompanied by parliamentarians Dr Moses Amweelo and Asser Mbai as well as government officials from different ministries, conducted two debriefing sessions and community meetings every day. Upon their arrival, the delegation was greeted with traditional dances and appreciation from local people who saw the visit as a sign of good things to come. At Mashare constituency in the Kavango Region the visitors were given a warm and lively “fire greeting” as everyone rubbed and clapped their hands at the same time. Yet on a more serious note, not only did the visit bring parliament closer to the people especially those on the grassroots level, but for most of them it was their first time to raise their numerous challenges directly to MPs. “It’s serving the purpose of the grassroots people,” said Samson Numpala who works at the Shadikongoro Agricultural Project in the Kavango Region. One of the ‘Indunas’, or senior headmen, in Caprivi was pleased with the fact that the parliamentarians came to see them face-to-face. “It’s not all the time that they come here and listen to our problems and for that I am grateful,” was the comment of one at the well-attended community meetings. Furthermore, a mobile bus that brought ‘Parliament Online’ was present at every venue where school children, traditional leaders and the general community had the opportunity to surf the parliament website. For some, this was a fascinating experience as they clicked a computer mouse for the first time. “What is this small thing that looks like a rock,” was one remark from an elderly woman, as some of the school children giggled in wonder. During some meetings, government was acknowledged for some of the much-needed public facilities, especially in rural areas, while, on the other hand, there was still a demand for more development and improved service delivery. Even though the distributed information pamphlets were printed in English, most of the younger generation was able to read them, while many of the older people were illiterate. Therefore suggestions were made that such information should also be printed in the local languages. “Parliament has taken a step in the right direction by reaching out to the people, because they are very much in need of development,” said one resident from Caprivi. And yet others, like Environment Youth Officer Michael Kayunde of the Kavango Region, felt that more needs to be done to bring such programmes to the remote areas and not just at constituency offices. “They should come inland – where is the Parliament in the village,” asked Kayunde. He added that similar visits of this nature are needed on a regular basis in order to keep the electorate in touch with government.