Namibia, a bleeding democracy

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Last month this very columnist worryingly made an observation concerning the invisibility of candidates for next week’s regional council and local authority elections.

As polling day is fast approaching and the race is predictably heating up, this worry has by no means been allayed or dissipated. In fact, if the campaign rallies of most of the political parties over the past weekend – with few exceptions – are anything to go by, there has been little to write home about, be it in terms of content or the visibility of the would-be candidates.

You name them, all the political parties had election rallies in one or the other place countrywide, most of them addressed by the so-called respective political big guns of these parties, with the candidates themselves conspicuous in their absence.

Nor did the contents of most of the speeches delivered – if the reports in the media are anything to go by – speak to the issues pertaining to regional and local government elections.

From the respective media reports on these rallies, I could discern only one candidate featuring at one of these rallies. Yet the content of the speech of this particular candidate went begging and wanting.
One daily paper reported on it, touching on one or two pertinent issues, while another seemed to take a different angle about the speech of the very same candidate.

One cannot but also mention the speech of the Khomas governor at a rally in the Khomas Region’s Tobias Hainyeko constituency, the bulk of which zeroed in on what must be pertinent issues to voters at the constituency and local level.

It is not clear whether the candidate for this constituency actually said anything, but the only thing reported about him was that he was introduced.

But the two examples cited, one of a candidate in a particular constituency in the Khomas Region and the content of the speech of such notwithstanding, and that of the Khomas governor, noting that she is not a candidate herself, were exceptions to the rule.

All credit to fellow members of the media for giving these rallies coverage, as much as in my opinion, there was little to write about. To give you an idea of what I am alluding to, at the said rally the Khomas governor was reported in the media as imploring candidates to put self-interest aside and work hard. Not bad really.

Still another big political gun was reported as attacking President Hage Geingob. The president was reportedly castigated for his “intent on destroying RDP”. There was little mention in the said report about the RDP’s intent on improving the plight of the electorate, with the bulk of the report (or should one say his speech), dedicated to an onslaught on Geingob.

In yet another media report the DTA president was quoted as saying that these elections will be a “two-horse race” between Swapo and the DTA, with all the other parties destined for demise. Again there was little attention in that report paid to the real bread and butter issues.

Yet another report about a rally angled on the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and their lack of a paper trail system. It is interesting that this aspect is still a vexed question at this level of elections, and at the expense of bread and butter issues? But with hindsight, this was one of the few constituency candidates to ever feature prominently, or at all during the current elections campaign.

In all fairness he was one of the few to touch pertinent issues related to the elections in question, albeit media reports have taken different angles to reporting on his speech. His concern over the lack of a paper trail is that Swapo would steal the election results.

In another report on a Swanu rally, the party called on government to set standard requirements for regional council election candidates, with the party’s candidate for the Otjombinde Constituency in the Omaheke Region alluding to the “background of the candidates”, including their educational qualifications.

This candidate, incidentally, is also one of the few to have ever taken to the podium himself, not shielded by one or the other political big gun.
Perhaps he may be an exception, having been a councilor before the outgoing councilor for the Otjombinde constituency.

Addressing a DTA rally in Oshakati last weekend, its national secretary for mobilisation accused the town council of being “a tribal local authority”, with DTA parliamentarians seeming to join the chorus about Swapo’s perceived exclusivity, this time around Epupa, where he hails from.

No trace of any bread and butter issues yet again. One of the few exceptions in this regard is the Christian Democratic Voice (CDV), albeit by the mouth of its president vowing at a rally in Swakopmund to better living conditions at the DRC informal settlement, promising in this regard to “provide adequate water, electricity, toilets and decent houses for everyone.”

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