By Lieutenant General (Rtd) Denga Ndaitwah
NAMIBIA attained its independence after a protracted liberation struggle. The independence came after the first-ever election was held in November 1989. As a matter of principle, and because the country never had a supreme law of the land, there was need to draft the country’s first constitution. The drafting of the constitution started soon after the election’s results were announced and run up to the time when it was finally adopted on the 9th February 1990.
Despite the fact that, the Constituency Assembly was constituted at a time when the political climate was still full of mistrust, our political leaders were able to put aside political differences as the people of Namibia were craving for independence without further delay. So they put the country and its people before everything else. Credit and much appreciation must go to our political leaders who were able to conclude that daunting national mission within a limited time of less than three months under the chairmanship of our current President, Dr Hage Geingob. After the constitution was drafted and eventually adopted, a date was set for the lowering of the colonial flag and the hoisting of our national flag mid-night of 21 March 1990. The hoisting of our national flag is the watershed that marked the beginning of a free, democratic and independent nation.
There is no doubt, that for a nation that was so thirsty and yearning for independence, the wait of about four months after the first ever national elections was regarded by many as a delay before the colonial flag was finally buried. However, in that case, the delay was a genuine one as it was necessary to first put an enabling instrument in the form of a constitution in place.
It was therefore, unavoidable for a nation to patiently endure the lengthy waiting period as we could not attain our independence without having a constitution. Astonishingly, that waiting period before inauguration did not change after independence and so we are still experiencing the same length of the waiting time. A very simple question would be, what are the current causes that preclude for the inauguration to take place soon after the national and Presidential elections? In my judgement, it may be possibly that, the prolonged period before inauguration did not get into the minds of our political leaders for consideration. It is my belief and conviction that time is now to interrogate the length of time between the national and Presidential elections and the inauguration. It is for that reason that this article will try to provoke some minds and proffer some opinions that may be worth for further digestion.
As earlier illustrated, the first delay to independence was caused by genuine reasons as our political leaders had to draft and adopt the supreme law of the land which is no longer the case. Ironically, why after 26 years of independence with the supreme law of the land in place are we still experiencing the same delay? I know well that the delay is not by any law in this country. Even if it is caused by law, why not change the law and close up the time gap? It is my presumption that the delay to inauguration is just the mind-set and habit of saying that is how we did it from day one. What was supposed to prevail now is to effect the change in order to conform to the realities.
It is natural that human beings are in some cases allergic to change. But I am highly convinced that no reasonable person will oppose the kind of change that aims to close up the democratic gap. The best way to close up that democratic gap is by way of accelerating and bringing closer the inauguration day to take place soon after the national and Presidential election’s results are announced. It is also my presupposition that, every time when people go to cast their votes they would wish to hear the outcome of results as soon as possible. The same is true that the electorate would wish to witness the immediate taking over of the helm of the government by the elected leaders whom they have elected to power.
In light of the above, this article will try to bring out the importance of and the need to expedite the process by shortening the transition period to inauguration. The intuition and judgement of every reasonable person in this regard is that, the only advantage which is equal to the disadvantage in this prolonged four-month delay before inauguration is the delay itself. But it must be noted that, the delay before inauguration is heavily laden with a lot of undesirables.
I shall substantiate this point further and make an attempt to bring out what seems to be possible danger caused by delay. Let us look into a classic example particularly with SWAPO that has been in power since the birth of our nation. During the 26 years, we have been experiencing falling out of some faces from the Party leadership and from the government structures. As some faces were falling out, naturally, new ones were also emerging. That is how dynamic politics is.
Furthermore, it has become a tradition that around August/ September of every national and Presidential election year, SWAPO political leaders will converge to come up with the Party list for those who will stand for the National Assembly election. To consolidate the Party list, political leaders will have to go through the strenuous Electoral College famously known as the “pot”. It is from there that some members make it while some fail to make it to the Party list.
At the time of going to the Electoral College, and regardless of members’ positions in the Party or in the government, the only members who will go there having secured their positions are the top four, namely the Party President, Vice President, Secretary General and Deputy Secretary General. The rest of the members will go there at the mercy of the participating members. After the Electoral College, there shall be a bit of relief for those who will succeed. But for those who got burnt in the “pot” and failed to come out, that is where the political resentments start. Some of those who will fail to make it may be Ministers or senior political leaders in the Party. Just imagine and make own conclusion on the political impact at that very moment.
Based on the “pot” outcome, there are two rudimentary cases worth underlining and to take note of. First, as a human being, from the “pot” there will be those who will be politically disillusioned for having failed to secure their positions in the Party list yet they will continue to serve in their government positions for about seven/eight months before they are relieved from government duties and responsibilities. Secondly, there will be those who will fail to secure their positions during November elections, yet they will continue to serve in their positions until 21 March at the time of inauguration of the new government.
These members will equally be affected and so their contributions and performances will be diminished for about four months up until at the time of inauguration. That is so because they know well that they are no longer part of the game in the next government. As part of human behaviour and naturally so, the performances of both categories of those who have fallen out around August/ September and November respectively, will be nose-diving to almost zero as they know they are no longer part of the government structure.
Imagine for example Ministers who have fallen out of the Party list in August/September yet they will continue to serve in those positions for about seven/eight months before inauguration on the 21 March. The only conclusion and judgement by an honest person is that, the contributions and performances by the outgoing Ministers will not be the same like those who have secured their names on the Party list.
It is a well-known fact that governments are run by employing bureaucratic and technocracy systems. However, while bureaucracy and technocracy in the developed world does not necessarily change much after election, it is a proven practice that in most developing countries particularly in Africa, bureaucracy and technocracy get their exit points with the outgoing government. That tells us that politics by nature is so dynamic of which it can even change hands and faces.
I know we have not experienced this drastic and derailing change in the last 26 years of our independence as there has been continuity by one Party which is also healthy for our democracy. As I said earlier, politics is dynamic. So as a nation, we must not be too complacent and be content with what had happened in the past. As part of military principles, we always ponder on the question of “What if?” It is on that principle that made militaries persevere and succeed as they are in most cases more proactive as opposed to reactive.
However, taking deeper and realistic analysis shall reveal that, coupling the delay and diminishing return for effective service delivery would
result into intentional or unintentional administration and management slowdown in performance and service delivery. Should the above be proven to be true, particularly when it can even happen from within the same Party, what about if there is a change of government from one political Party to another? I believe there is nothing to argue here as the delay and diminishing return of four months shall be felt more, not only politically but nationally as well.
As politics is infected with frictions of different political ideologies, it will be more serious to keep the outgoing Party members into offices for about four months before handing-over the government to the incoming one. Keeping the outgoing government in power for four months would mean giving the outgoing government a blank cheque and carte blanche to do whatever they may wish doing.
It is also important to note that, we need to go for a change by narrowing the gap between the elections and inauguration days. Simply put, we do not need to reinvent the wheel in introducing and minimising the kind of change. There are already countries on this planet that are doing that with a minimum loss of time. There are some countries on our doorsteps from where we can emulate. Those countries I have in mind have put in place all enabling mechanisms to ensure that after the final results have been announced, the following morning or so will be the swearing in of the Head of State. Apart from the quick swearing-in particularly after the undisputed election results, some countries have also put in place mechanisms to promptly deal with the situation in the event should there be disputes on election results. The mechanisms to deal with election disputes are designed in such a way that there should be a minimum delay before the court ruling or verdict.
Let us take a brief analysis on own situation when there are election disputes as was experienced after 2009 elections. How many years did it take before the case was finally concluded and buried? What could have happened should the court had ruled in favour of the opposition? What was going to happen to the laws that have been enacted during the years of court delays? These are some of the possible political dangers that are likely to have political and democratic repercussions. Therefore, tapping from others experiences and wisdom is the noble thing of which our political leaders in this country have the political capability and ability to do.
As earlier mentioned, the first delay was caused not by anything else but by the situation that the nation was unable to avoid. But that situation disappeared at the time when the constitution was adopted and eventually took effect midnight of 21 March 1990. The best is now to minimise the delay by making realistic adjustments and take what is democratically appropriate.
We can imagine and wish that nothing shall happen even in the event of a political change. But there is an understanding that, imagination does not have limitations. Limitations are only in actions. In this context, let us go an extra mile and imagine in the event of a scenario where government is changing hands from one political Party to another.
There are some hypotheses that I strongly think are worth analysing. First, a four-month delay before inauguration after Presidential and National Assembly elections is likely to create administration and management vacuums. Second, the delay can as well create room for diminishing returns as far as service delivery is concerned. Based on human beings’ reaction and because politics is a struggle for power, regardless whether you are all from the same political Party, whilst there shall be those in a euphoric mood, there shall also those who will suffer from political resentments as they were not able to secure their positions. All the above are serious causes for concern as that can make the system suffer before inauguration takes effect of which the recovery from the damage would also take longer.
I am not a prophet and never dreamt be one. All I know in real life and by its nature, change is inevitable. The question that the militaries use to ponder on of “What if” comes to mind. I know and understand the human behaviour as well as the politics in this country. Should there be a political change after elections, I am wondering whether those who are emerging from the opposition will be patient enough to wait for about four months before inauguration. I am equally sceptical whether there is a dedicated politician in this country who is so patriotic enough and who would desire to serve the incoming government of a previous opposition Party for yet another four months before inauguration. Should that happen, I do not know how many politicians will be politically willing to serve the incoming government with full energy for about four months before handing over power.
It is the reality of life that, the delay time of about four months is unnecessarily too long and politically undesirable. In conclusion and in view of the above, change becomes a necessity and not an option. Having now brought out some possible political dangers that can be caused by delay to inauguration, the best is to avoid them before they happen. At the same time, having weighed the two options that are available, option one is the best option as it has no cost. It is from the foregoing that the delaying period before inauguration must therefore, be a subject for review by those who are qualified to do so.
In his wisdom, President Hage Geingob who was in the driving hot seat during the drafting of the constitution, must again be the brainchild by playing a central role and tie up the loose ends by reducing the waiting period for inauguration. Reasonably reducing the waiting period will be a democratic boon of contentment as opposed to bone of contention. Against this backdrop, I shall now rest my case and leave that to those who are vested with the power to consider it further should there be a need to do.
Lt Gen (rtd) Denga Ndaitwah is a former Chief of the Defence Force, a holder of Master Degree in Strategic Studies, part time lecturer at UNAM, HoD and senior lecturer at IUM
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