With some exceptions, several speeches from the ruling party side simply sing the praises of Swapo leadership or lack any really constructive content, and overall the opposition doesn’t fare that much better and most don’t sufficiently interrogate budgetary highlights with any truly incisive questions, observations, criticisms or even suggestions.
AT LEAST deputy ministers failed to impress. On the one hand, Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy Willem Isaacks, (he of the recent tribalistic, anti-Ovambo statements which were followed by a somewhat mealy-mouthed apology/retraction only in the wake of calls for his dismissal) who didn’t have much of a contribution, but instead astoundingly referred to himself as “we the poor” in the context of access to free education.
Another who did not come across well at all is newly appointed Deputy Minister of Education Sylvia Makgone, whose written speech reflects worrying deficiencies. Perhaps the best part of what was otherwise a fairly incomprehensible contribution was selected quotes by former SA President Nelson Mandela. No one reading this speech would hold out much hope of improvement in the education sector, honestly speaking.
Deputy Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Alpheus Muheua sang praises and swore ‘eternal allegiance’ to the president and praised him for “steering this ship called Namibia through the rough seas and troubled waters, but staying the course ...” also “hailing” the Swapo vice president who would take the reins in future, and expressing gratitude to a number of others. Surely by now our MPs can just get to the point!
This immediately brought my thoughts back to a recent column I wrote in which I bemoaned the fact that ministers and their deputies are not chosen based on their areas of expertise, and that it really serves no purpose to have people heading ministries about which they know little or nothing. I ask again how a country can be developed with such inappropriate appointments.
One of the better contributions was the one by RDP MP Anton von Wietersheim, whose intervention was probably one of the most thought provoking and it was clear that some effort had been made to go through the budget diligently beforehand. Quoting Albert Einstein who said that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”, Von Wietersheim criticised the “battle cry” of “optimising development outcomes” as hollow and inappropriate. He challenged the finance minister on the controversial question of what he termed “rotten” state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and wasted billions, correctly pointing out that while she talked of ‘rapid strides’ being made to bring SOEs under control, years back she had made the same promises of establishing mechanisms and enforcing accountability of parastatals, as well as holding them accountable. This had not happened yet, Von Wietersheim added. Subsidies have skyrocketed since then, the RDP MP said, repeating his accusation of Namibia being a “land of non-implementation”. The finance minister needs to answer these challenging questions.
There was very little about the contributions of most MPs to show they are earning their keep and taking their electoral mandate and/or their oaths of office very seriously at all.
Most repugnant, by now, are the praise-singers. After all these years of independence, one would have hoped that interjections of this kind made this week by a number of MPs, who otherwise had little substance to what they said, would have come to an end.
It continues to be evident that our parliamentarians still have a lot of work ahead in at least educating themselves to rise to the challenge of the tasks they have been given, even if they were ill-equipped to start out with. There is little reason for optimism about the future of our country, and it’s getting harder and harder to respect political leadership when we see it is in the hands of a number of people who really do not know what they are doing.