The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) is a mass political party founded by Namibia’s progressive democrats with the expressed purpose of contesting political power and thereby shaping the policies of the government in this country. Its founders are men and women with a shared vision of a bright and prosperous future. They are people who have come together to strive to strengthen democracy and consolidate good governance in Namibia. Its foundation represents a new dawn for the country.
The party has its roots in Namibia’s basic law. This means that the country’s constitution is the broad foundation on which the RDP’s political activity is based. Its commitment is to a democratic state that is firmly anchored in the rule of law, the observance of human rights and the fundamental freedoms that are enunciated in the Namibian Constitution. The RDP believes unequivocally that the will of the people is the source of political authority; and that political power must be vested in the people and exercised by them through a system of democratic representation. Such representation is realized through periodically held, free, fair, and transparent elections, which are a prerequisite for an effectively functioning and stable state.
Since the quality of democratic representation depends very much on the public’s understanding of the policy issues being put forth by the contending political parties, associations and civil society organizations, the RDP advocates for the fostering of a political culture that provides for unfettered popular participation in the country’s political process. In this context, the RDP places great emphasis on gender mainstreaming. It seeks to inspire active debate on all issues affecting the nation’s welfare. For participatory democracy to flourish in Namibia, the RDP believes that the field of debate must be leveled for all citizens. As such, the RDP fully embraces the principle of multi-partyism.
Accordingly, the party asserts that the struggle for political power in a democratic Namibia must be fought in the arena of ideas and that such a struggle must be free of intimidation and violence. But for this to succeed, the people have to be mobilized, informed and, indeed, educated about the goals of the policies being pursued and the legitimacy and viability of the modes of action taken to attain such goals.
The burning problems, outlined for action in this political programme, are poverty, income inequity, poor performance of the education system, unemployment and the scourge of HIV-Aids. These are clearly the major challenges facing the nation today. The RDP is mindful of the fact that without stable democratic governance and economic growth, these problems cannot be overcome. The party therefore aims to arouse the conscience and creative energy of the nation’s political leaders and economic operators for concerted efforts towards economic growth and development.
Born against the background of an alarming trend towards the politics of anti-democratic retrogression in the country, the RDP is vehemently opposed to such reactionary and anachronistic political behaviour. Such politics operate on the basis of hero worshipping on one hand, and fear-inspired exclusion on the other. This is obviously inimical to the flourishing of the democratic political culture which Namibia is committed to building, defending and entrenching.
Cowed or intimidated by threats of witch-hunt, political ostracism and job loss, many in the ranks of Namibia’s ruling circles have opted to keep quiet and sycophantly prostrate themselves before the powers that be. For its part, the Rally for Democracy and Progress rejects with contempt such cowardly obsequiousness. It fights for political inclusiveness through the expansion of the nation’s democratic space. This is its reason for existence.
Namibia is part of the wider global community. Accordingly, the RDP will cultivate friendly relations with other democratic parties and peace-loving nations, regionally, continentally and internationally.
A rally is the bringing together of scattered forces to renew efforts aimed at the realization of common purpose. This is to say, a rally is the summoning up of courage and strength in order to galvanize a people’s enthusiasm for a great cause.
The founders of the RDP have come to the realization that the Namibian people’s vision and enthusiasm for the building of a dynamic, just and prosperous nation have, of late, been on the decline.The sense of hope for a bright future, which characterized the mood of the nation following the attainment of independence, has been on the wane. Watching some of the country’s socio-political processes, such as parliamentary debates and some media commentaries, one is astounded by the level of intolerance in the country. Discussions of important issues like national reconciliation and development are reduced to myopic and abusive mutual recriminations.
Those who have stepped forward to form the new party are Namibian patriots who are driven by a deep yearning to see the nation forging ahead with a shared vision of socio-political harmony, growth and prosperity. They have risen to the historic occasion to rekindle the spirit which the achievement of independence initially engendered. They have set up a political organization that is capable of serving as a rallying point for the refocusing of the people’s vision and energy, capable of mobilizing Namibia’s socio-economic and political forces that have been scattered as a result of divisive and reactionary autocratic rule in recent years.
The Striving for Democracy
As noted earlier, the RDP espouses democracy as its beacon in the push for the development of the Namibian society.
In its populist meaning, democracy is referred to as “government by the people, for the people”. More broadly defined, democracy refers to government in which the supreme power is vested in the people. In other words, the masses of the people constitute the source of political authority in a democratic system. In this context the definition of democracy goes beyond the concept of government or the mere mechanism of ruling, administering, ordering and regulating public affairs. For the RDP, governance is the process and skill to utilize collective or public power for the realization of common objectives. For this party, such collective power has to be acquired democratically through elections and used on behalf of the people, for the management of society in all its various aspects: social, economic and political.
When it is good, governance involves actions and interaction of individuals and groups in diverse and dynamic ways. Good governance entails discussion, consultation and consensus. It is a strategic precondition for success in the nation’s effort towards development. This not only requires that the management of public affairs be conducted within the framework of the rule of law and ethical codes, but that such management also be carried out on the basis of the principles of accountability and transparency. As the defining characteristics of good governance, accountability and transparency are important in the management of the affairs of society. They reinforce the legitimacy of government and help nurture trust between public officials and the people. Accountability and transparency do, moreover, serve as a potent deterrent against corruption, which is a manifestation of bad governance. On the other hand, bad governance occurs, in the view of the RDP, when the legal, ethical and sound operational principles of managing the affairs of society are misdirected or ignored. Under these circumstances, power is misused and abused. Such abuse and misuse of power are the hallmarks of autocratic, dictatorial regimes. Typical also of bad governance is the existence of a cumbersome and ineffective regulatory framework which puts unnecessary hurdles in the path of both domestic and foreign investment flow into the economy. RDP knows that being accountable has not been a distinguishing characteristic of the management of the country’s public affairs.
Accountability thus forms a central plank of this political programme. But what is meant by accountability? Simply put, it is the obligation of those individuals and organizations, charged with the performance of specific roles or delivery of particular services, to be held responsible for their actions or inaction. Under good governance, individuals and organizations are obliged to account for their behavior; and this obligation is judged in terms of clearly stated legal and ethical codes of conduct. It thus goes without saying that those who fail to fulfill their responsibility break or neglect the law, rules or official procedures are liable for punishment or disciplinary measures in accordance with clearly articulated legal conventions.
It is very common in the Government of Namibia for decisions to go un-implemented, even for years, without those responsible being called to account. Good political decisions are made but there is lack of political will, focus and apparently no capacity to translate these decisions into coherent action. Accountability assures one’s trust and confidence in those assigned with responsibility. In the public sector, accountability obliges public officials to conduct themselves in an open manner according to the law, rules and regulations. Such officials are moreover, required to respond to the legitimate requests and demands of citizens without discrimination or favour.
In the private sector, accountability is largely demanded of company directors with regard to the performance of their duties. Financial accountability is an indispensable management device providing essential information to direct the effective allocation, control and monitoring of resources. Hence policymakers, who are concerned with the performance of the economy and its growth and competitiveness, have great interest in accountability.Since the private sector derives its support and profitability from civil society, one important function of accountability is the supply of reliable, sufficient, up-to date information on the performance of enterprises and corporations in this sector. Investors and shareholders who can use such information to make or adjust their decisions. Research institutes also need reliable information on which to base independent and objective analysis. Information flow is thus a very vital contribution to the country’s development and the flourishing of good governance in Namibia. The RDP therefore considers itself duty bound to foster a political culture where accountability is highly emphasized. As pointed out, the other concept which is central to the definition of good governance is the principle of transparency. Transparency involves the availability of information on all matters related to governance. It means that the duties and responsibilities of public officials and the manner in which they are performed must be made known to all those interested; and that the public officials themselves be made aware of their duties, the rules and procedures governing conduct of such duties and the time-frame within which those duties are to be performed.
Openness and predictability in the conduct of all types and levels of governance are, as far as the RDP is concerned, some of the major characteristics of transparency. They are key to inhibiting corruption and stunting its growth. Indeed, combating corruption is one of the main pillars of this programme of action. Like accountability, transparency facilitates the growth of the public’s trust and confidence in those charged with the achievement of common goals. The party is thus keen to enhance effective co-operation and partnership between the government, the private sector and civil society. The RDP is keenly conscious that in this globalizing and highly competitive world economy, the availability of information is crucial to both the public and private sectors. We all know that in today’s world, economies are increasingly information and knowledge based. Hence the RDP advocates for the rapid building up of the capacity to acquire, store, and disseminate information and knowledge necessary to enable Namibia’s entrepreneurs and business people to be more productive and competitive both nationally and globally. The public sector is thus duty-bound, the party believes, to strive to upgrade and expand the country’s information systems. The state must, in other words, make information and knowledge accessible to all, especially to the nation’s economic operators.
Accountability and transparency are inter-dependent and mutually supportive. There can be no accountability without transparency and vice versa. Together, they constitute the essence of good governance. They are moreover, important building blocks in the creation of social capital, which is that intangible thread in relations between persons in a modern society. The cultivation of social capital is crucial in the promotion, sustainability and consolidation of both democratic processes and economic development. Good governance by example will be the RDP’s vital and operational strategy as the party endeavours to release the nation’s energy, talents, skills and entrepreneurship.
The Issue of Progress
Besides democracy, the need to achieve progress is a major development objective for the RDP. Under the RDP, the country will set great store to the urgency of overcoming the obstacles which have been clogging the wheels of progress. To move forward will mean not only success in ridding the country of the vestiges of apartheid imbalances such as income inequity, but also a significant breakthrough in transforming the Namibian society from its present reality of under-development.
The RDP pledges to improve the quality of the country’s system of education. This is especially urgent regarding the fields of science, mathematics and technology. It is common knowledge that Namibia has difficulty with the recruitment of teachers in such subjects. It is equally true that there are many secondary schools in the country that have no laboratories or libraries. Education is about stimulating curiosity about the world around us and how it works. The Internet has opened up possibilities for Namibia to bridge the knowledge divide. It is expensive to equip schools, particularly secondary schools, with laboratories and libraries. An Internet connection to a rural school, even those without electricity, can bring information and knowledge to schools, even those without adequate textbooks. Of course, the Internet is a source both useful and misleading information. Guidance in its navigation is thus required.
The RDP is committed to using all the available and appropriate techniques of learning to upgrade the standards of education and enhance the skills and knowledge of the nation’s younger generation, thus giving them the ability to escape unemployment and poverty. The difference here is that while others have talked, the RDP is going to do something. There are workable and cost-effective examples of how scientific teaching, for instance, has been brought to rural communities, with tangible results. One of these has been a novel project in Ghana whereby a British company that develops teaching materials created mobile laboratories designed to cater for several secondary schools. These were taken to communities where such facilities did not exist. The RDP can clearly see the urgent and imperative need for Namibia to educate its workers, more specifically those of the younger generation. Indeed, the country has been and continues to cry out loudly for a labor force that is adequately literate, numerate, adaptable and trainable. More specifically Namibia needs a more technically inclined labor force. To bring this about is a solemn vow of the RDP to the nation’s younger generation and the country’s economic operators.
While there has been a sustained budget commitment of about 23% allocated annually to education, Namibia has not been able to translate this rather impressive financial commitment into the desired results. Yes, on aggregate, school enrolment has gone up, but the quality of education remains poor. Failure rates continue to be disturbingly high. So are the repetition rates. This is no way for Namibia to achieve rapid material and cultural progress. Achieving progress requires the introduction of innovative measures. Accordingly, the RDP is working to redesign and revamp the nation’s system of education. RDP is committed to ensuring efficiency in education. A priority goes to quality of schooling and better management to ensure that teachers are doing their job.
In this particular respect, the RDP government will make sure that nation’s vainly talked about private-public artnership is given practical expression. This means that the idea of state-business collaboration is to be a cardinal principle regarding the party’s political activity.
Private provision of education is an issue that has not been seriously addressed. There are people who wish to, and are equipped to contribute but have not been given a role to play.
Industry too has an input by offering meaningful apprenticeships. VTC is making a valuable contribution and we salute them but a more direct relationship with industry is required to hone skills, particularly those of new entrants to the workforce.
Like education, heath care has been falling into a state of decay in terms of both physical infrastructure and service delivery. Yet the health system has been next only to education in terms of budgetary provision. As such, the situation in our health institutions has become unacceptable. The RDP government will address these prevailing conditions and improve the quality and accessibility of health care.
Within the short period of seventeen years of freedom and independence, the country is experiencing increasing rates of crime and violence, especially violence against women. Most disturbing is the recurrence of rape and killing of young women. The RDP government will take stern measures to stamp out this growing culture of crime and violence. It will also work diligently towards the goal of improving social conditions, including the provision of housing. In this, peace and stability remain essential. The RDP will thus work to strengthen the peace and stability that currently prevails.
To grow the economy and to combat the vexing challenges of poverty and under-development, the party will push aggressively for economic diversification with a view to broadening the economy’s production base. This would mean the expansion of the range of products, be they primary, service or industrial. The RDP advocates for vertical and horizontal diversification of the economy, that is, encouraging close and co-operative business networks within both vertical supply chains and horizontal ties with other producers. The party’s diversification strategy will seek to persuade producers, particularly SME producers, to identify niche products and services.
But this calls for systematic research for innovation in products and services and naturally, quality control.
The party is aware that diversification is closely linked to competitiveness of the economy; competitiveness being the ability of the country (or a firm) to produce goods and services that meet the requirements of the market and thereby to maintain and expand its market share. Competitiveness creates the conditions for successful entrepreneurship to develop. It thus enhances the prospect for economic growth, job creation and poverty alleviation. The RDP is braced to put in place policies and measures intended to trigger the process of diversification, competitiveness and productivity growth.
An RDP government will not just be there to maintain but it will also work to create a truly conducive environment to flourish in a globalizing world economy. It will pursue a policy that emphasizes the explicit link between democracy and good governance as well as the strong relationship between good governance and economic growth. The economy can only flourish if resources such as energy are available and supply reliable. Our nation faces a looming energy crisis. For the last seventeen years, the government has been talking and talking about the development of own energy resources. But when it came to practical development of projects like Kudu or Epupa there has been no evidence of any will to implement. The damage of autocracy has reeked on our public institutions is largely responsible for this state of affairs.
The RDP has emerged on the Namibian political scene to entrench the process of democratization of our society and development of our country.
It has been born to re-ignite that spirit of confidence and hope that prevailed at independence.
The RDP pledges to remain faithful in the service of the Namibian people.
We will deliver on our promises.