New Party No Reason to Panic

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Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro

Despite the new party having been in the news for the past two weeks or so -albeit while its founders played their cards close to their chest – news about the eventual registration of the new party by the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) this week nevertheless ensured a great deal of hype bordering on schizophrenia.

It is not so much the hype it seems to have created, artificially or otherwise, that concerns me. I personally live for the day when a new party can offer a real national alternative to the staple ration we have become accustomed to, to the extent of near constipation, courtesy of the current configuration of political tendencies.

Simply put, I am as yet to be rattled out of my political apathy, if not ignorance. But I not only cherish the right of the new party to exist, and be politically active, but I am prepared to uphold that principle at all times. Our Constitution guarantees such a right, irrespective of who practices it.

However, I am reeling from two aspects to the revelation of the registration of the new party. The first is the seemingly insensitive lack of transparency by the election office supremo in releasing information on the registration of the new party to the media.

The second relates to the belligerent posture taken by the only public face of the new party immediately after the party became public, who went so far as calling a reporter going about his normal duty of gathering information a “stupid liar”.

I would beg to differ with the chief administrator of the election office that it is his prerogative to divulge, or not to divulge, information relating to the registration of a political party, or whether or not to disclose any information at all.

Yes, admittedly we do not have anything yet in Namibia akin to the Freedom of Information Act. But lest we forget our Constitution guarantees freedom of expression, which includes that of the press and media. This guarantee does not exist without reason, but because the ultimate objective is to ensure the free flow of information within the society.

Thus there is a duty on especially those entrusted with information in the public domain to share such information with the media, and thus the public.

That is, to allow the public to make informed choices about various aspects of their lives.

The information so entrusted to the ECN is not, and cannot be, the private property of this institution subject to its prerogative, and those entrusted with running it. No! The mandate entrusted to it is to enable the broader society to remain functional.

By denying the reporter this information, the institution did not only interfere with my fellow media colleague in his duties but also went as far as rendering the society dysfunctional.

The public is expected to make its choices about the new party. It cannot do this when the media that is supposed to transmit such information to it, is denied the means of doing that.

The prerogative of the ECN goes as far as ensuring that such information is preserved and is available to those in need of it in their legitimate business as part of the democratic dispensation of this country.

Until the ECN informs us otherwise, I don’t see any big deal about the registration of a new party that warrants the election supremo imagining prerogatives he does not have and will never have.

In fact the moment any political party registers with this body, then that information becomes public property – likewise the information relating to such a party, including its leaders.

Otherwise, if rules and regulations exist that perhaps preclude the election office from giving information about a party, it would perhaps serve the election office and its mandate better to explain this to the reporter and the public.

Nor can any political party dictate to the election office whether it can, may or dictate the time when it can release such information to the public. So please Mr Kanime, you got it completely wrong.

Moving on to my second concern, I do not want to believe Mr Jesaya Nyamu’s bulldog reception of Mr Kuvee Kangueehi, to the effect that he is a “stupid liar”.

Neither do I wish to believe this is a foretaste of the alternative that the new party proposes to the Namibian nation, which is so starved of viable and practical alternatives.

One can foresee that the not-too-distant political path of Mr Nyamu and company will be riddled with sharp and harmful objects. However the fact that they are halfway to their ultimate destination speaks volumes and is testimony to their character and resilience.

Certainly the belligerent posture does not resemble the character that has carried them this far, nor do I imagine that my colleague should be at the receiving end of such belligerence. Needless to say Nyamu and co, if anyone, should know from experience what it feels like to be subject to such belligerence and such venom.

Their character as leaders of a new political party aspiring towards State office has as yet to come before the actual connoisseurs, the voters. Make no mistake there are many lining up in wait, with their ammunition. The real test is yet to come – the ballot box.

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