By Lieutenant General (rtd) Denga Ndaitwah
AS governments have been in existence for decades now, so is the practice of democracy. Notwithstanding, there still no common definition for what democracy is all about. There are however, some principles on which democracy anchors. Among the most popularly known and used principles is that democracy is described as the government by the people for the people. Democracy can therefore, be understood as a political system through which political leaders are elected to be the representatives of people within political and government structures with the aim to achieve certain goals and/or objectives for the people. However, it is significant to underscore that, democracy is not a prestige and political victory that one gets on a silver platter. Democracy is a system that can also bring about a number of challenges of which some of them may be insurmountable.
According to Mani and Krause, “Democratic governance refers to the regulatory mechanism of social matters which include among others, respect for human rights, rule of law, justice, equality, political participation, legitimacy and accountability. Furthermore, democracy promotes good governance…”
The concept of democracy dates back to ancient Greek political organisation which literally mean ‘rule by the people’. Democracy is also often reduced to one common denominator otherwise referred to as elections. That simply means, when we talk of democracy, we talk of elections. However, democracy is not only about elections and the majority vote; it is also about the employment of checks and balances to ensure good governance that is transparent and accountable to the electorate. Democracy is traditionally regarded as antidotes for political, economic and social vices.
There are also some aspects that are so important if one has to understand the principles of democracy in their holistic forms. Democracy is said to be a universally recognised mode of government, preserve and promote the dignity and fundamental human rights, genuine partnership between men and women, wielding of power, primacy of law, peace, economic, social and cultural development.
Speaking of democratic governance is not just enough without qualifying it with good democratic governance. That is so because democratisation in many parts of the world never had been manifesting good democratic governance. Some democratic governments have failed to accomplish their political, economic and social goals because of some challenges. As challenges do vary so are the solutions and the manner to solve them. As such, governments are always faced with problems on how to deal with political, economic and social objectives and be able to adopt viable solutions to challenges. Because of the uniqueness and characteristics of every challenge and problem, getting appropriate solutions to those challenges and problems need to be tailor-made to be able to deal with a particular challenge and problem as solutions to challenges and problems are not one size fits all.
Another challenge may be caused by political misunderstanding when there is a political fear and mistrust that may cause a lack of political will and the desire to agree on the political agenda. Take an example of the Namibian case that has dragged on for years before finally the country attained its independence on 21 March 1990. The delay to conclude the political deal was caused by lack of confidence and trust among the opposing parties. And that is natural for a human being.
When one looks at the elements of a democratic government and the international dimension of democracy, one would deduce that, there are really challenges of which governments are required to do more in order to ensure effective democratic governments. In order to ensure that democracy is effective and alive, governments are obliged to put in place enabling instruments and mechanisms to be able to drive the democratic processes. The major challenge with democracy is not necessarily about its definition, but how to identify the democratic goals and objectives that are realistic, measurable and achievable.
Whilst all the stated aspects are part and parcel of democracy, one would also surmise that, democracy is about elections where people participate to elect their representatives who will be their mouthpieces where the masses of the people cannot directly partake. Democracy must also be regarded as a panacea of many socio-economic and political vices. Good governance is about collective action by those in the political leadership together with all stakeholders who have a stake in the governance of the state.
Good democratic governance is always regulated by the Constitution of the land. The democratic co-existence of people with diverse political ideologies demands entrenched fundamental principles. Namibia’s Constitution is a classic vivid example where the erstwhile opposing political parties and leaders were brought under one roof to draft and adopt the Constitution which is hailed today across the globe as one of the best.
The above discussed facets will only be entrenched if human rights are respected. Human rights are fundamental facets if democratic governance is to qualify its actions. A democratically elected government that does not respect human rights is tantamount to being a non-elected government. Human rights are the most daunting and elusive undertaking if the democratic governance is to survive. It is so fundamental and core as it deals with human beings who may be classified into different groups of which some of those groups may be considered as vulnerable which include women and children.
Let us now take a close look at the Supreme Law of the land which made Namibia a shining example of democracy. Chapter 3 as enshrined in the Namibian Constitution deals with fundamental human rights and freedoms. The aspects of fundamental human rights and freedoms which are enshrined in the constitution are, protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, protection of life, protection of liberty, respect of human dignity, slavery and forced labour, equality and freedom from discrimination, arrest and detention, fair trial, privacy, family, children’s rights, administrative justice, culture, education, fundamental freedoms, limitation upon fundamental rights and freedoms, apartheid and affirmative action, derogation and enforcement of fundamental right and freedoms
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015