Recess Not Merely for Jollification

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro The National Assembly last week once again went into one of its recesses. This time for close to three months. Of course, like everyone else, the honourable members may be in need of some rest. Deservedly or not I shall at this stage not pass judgment but leave that up to you the voter. Such recesses may be necessary to allow especially ministers to be able to attend to their ministerial duties. But more often such recesses are held up as an opportunity for the members to do committee duty as well as to visit their constituencies whatever constituency means in this regard since Namibia is a single constituency currently. Be that as it may, one member as late as October complained in the august House of fellow members being guilty of absenteeism at one or the other committee meeting. In the process, they delay committees completing their work and reporting in time to the House on the tasks it has assigned any such committee. It is not clear how often members visit constituencies when on recess. Programmes or schedules for such visits are rarely public knowledge. If they ever exist, these programmes perhaps are only meant for the constituents’ attention. It is also uncertain given the limited information channels that the members seem to use to inform voters in their constituencies of any impending visits by them. If information about the visits is not widespread, then one also doubts the extent to which broader participation by the voters takes place during such visits. In the end, such visits may be limited to only a few constituency voters, making participation in the democratic process by the voters in between elections only a marginal matter if not imaginary. Strangely the media, an important partner in parliament’s outreach activities, is seldom informed of such programmes. In view of this, it is hard to see such recesses more than anything else but long paid holidays for the honourable members. “I would like to stress that the responsibilities of parliamentarians do not end the moment parliamentary sessions adjourn. “You are expected to keep close contact with the men and women in your constituencies. Such a relationship will help parliamentarians gain first-hand knowledge of the needs, hopes, expectations and aspirations as well as the fears that our citizens face in their day-to-day lives,” the Founding President Dr Sam Nujoma once reminded the honourable members. The only people that seem to have heeded this advice, is the Office of the Speaker of the National Assembly, starting with the late Dr Mose Tjitendero, and lately Honourable Theo-Ben Gurirab and also lately the Chairperson of the National Council, Honourable Asser Kapere. If the parliamentary recess is more than just a jolly time for the members and as Gurirab well reminded them before the recess that the ball is in their court to make a difference with respect to the issues that daily affect the people, then the members must somehow account for their time during recesses. Assuming they are not already doing this. If this has already been happening, then their activities in this regard need to be more open to the public. The start is for the honourable members to tell us what their programmes are in terms of their constituency visits during the current recess. Constituency visits are important than may appear on the face of it. One crucial function of parliamentarians is to make laws. Among these laws are laws to improve the living of people. For this to happen, it is important that the lawmakers are constantly in touch and are familiar with the realities of their communities if laws intended to improve such realities for the better are to be rooted in such realities to be of any consequence. To illustrate my point, early this week I ran into a group of people at their usual rendezvous in Katutura labouring corruption. To some, corruption starts with “my wife (husband) stealing money from me” to use the exact words of one. I am sure this cue comes from some of the cases the Anti-Corruption Commission has been fronting like a clerk stealing money from a company. Does an employee stealing from petty cash represent a typical case of corruption? Not in my understanding. In my understanding corruption entails someone in an influential or powerful position using this position to personally benefit in one way or another. The Anti-Corruption law is in place but somehow society does not seem to agree on what corruption is or does not appear to have the same understanding of corruption. Somehow, society has been left behind. One can only deduce that the Anti-Corruption law may not have its roots in the realities of our communities. With better constituency work in preparation of this legislation public understanding may have been different. May the constituency work-cum-holiday be restful as is fruitful for the honourables.

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