ONE of the hallmarks of a working democracy is the ability of leaders to engage the population through constant communication and dialogue to ensure popular participation in the nation’s affairs.
Democracy is not just about elections. It is about people’s participation in their governance and national development. While it can fairly be argued that by electing their representatives, people do participate in their nation’s affairs, that alone is not enough.
The electorate has to be an active participant in the way the country is run at all times and not during election time alone.
One of the deficits of our vibrant and young democracy is the lack of enhanced consultation between office bearers and those that elect them. The lack of consultations is not just limited to national leaders and the people. It is also evident between institutions, businesses and consumers and the list goes on.
Indeed there are channels of communication between the leaders and the electorate including back and forth meetings and dissemination of information through the mass media.
However, there are grey areas in terms of the way communication between the office bearers and the electorate is handled. Most of the time, office bearers tend to think that they know what the people want.
They criss-cross the country with readymade prescriptions in the form of speeches that are sometimes tailored by people who hardly know the audience and their needs.
And to make matters worse, after reading the prepared speeches, the leaders simply board their limousines and head for the cities. The people hardly get the chance to engage in meaningful dialogue with their leaders. Little time, if at all, is spared for questions and/or collection of the views of the people.
Leaders rather rely on official briefings by local leaders who do not necessarily provide a bigger or complete picture of what people want. It is time that we get down to basics.
Suffice to say, a good leader is one who goes to the people and listens to them and not one who listens to his/her own voice. The people do not need the long lectures that are mostly conducted in the queen’s language.
Surely, they expect their leaders to address them on issues of importance. But they also expect their leaders to listen to their plight directly. And that means making communication a two-way traffic. Doing that would be in keeping with the notion of ‘Government of the people, by the people’.
It is our considered view that the country would have been spared the embarrassment arising from the disputed election of the Caprivi governor had there been proper consultations between the parties involved in the dispute.
The dispute is really unnecessary and embarrassing and has the potential to strain relations between the leaders involved. It puts our democratic credentials under the spotlight and has negatively ignited tribal sentiments.
Sadly, the leaders have to engage in conflict resolution over something, which could have easily been avoided if there was consultation between these parties.
The row between the Labour Ministry and the Namibia Employers Federation can be dealt with through consultations and negotiations. The same applies to the conflict in Ovitoto between two groups of farmers.
Another example is the recent amnesty for motorists which points to a lack of proper information on the part of defaulters. This goes to show how little institutions consult or provide information to clients and customers. There are many such problems and conflicts that are caused by people not conferring with others on issues that concern them.
President Hifikepunye Pohamba has a reputation of a leader who consults. It is important that other leaders follow his example because the importance of consultations cannot be over-emphasised.