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National Assembly MPs: Are we getting full value?

In the past, some MPs have been accused of doing little more than ‘warming seats’ in the National Assembly because of their perceived low contribution to parliamentary debates. However, there has been no attempt by researchers to assess just how much MPs do contribute to debate and which, if any, MPs say very little at all. The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) recently reviewed 19 volumes of Hansard (the official record of the National Assembly) dating from September 2005 to early October 2007. Worryingly, later volumes of Hansard have not been printed and are not available for public scrutiny. However, a two-year period was considered enough to make an assessment of how much MPs were contributing to debate in the chamber.
To do this the IPPR measured the number of lines that all MPs had contributed to general debates, motions and questions in Hansard. These were then added together for each MP and a league table was created for all 76 MPs (this figure includes the six non-elected MPs but excludes the Speaker and Deputy Speaker as they do not contribute to debates aside from chairing proceedings). Ministerial statements were stripped out of the assessment so that the analysis focussed on general contributions to debate, questions and motions. No attempt was made to gauge the quality of contributions as this would be a highly subjective process.
In this article we feature the best and worst performers and several other categories. The full league table is included in the IPPR paper, ‘Not Speaking Out: Measuring National Assembly Performance’, which is available from the Institute’s website (www.ippr.org.na).

The top ten

DTA MP McHenry Venaani tops the list of MPs who contributed most. Ben Ulenga, leader of the official opposition, Congress of Democrats, is second. Kazenambo Kazenambo, Deputy Minister of Local and Regional Government, Housing and Rural Development, is the top Swapo performer. Interestingly, Prime Minister Nahas Angula is seventh in the list indicating that he contributes generally to debates as well as making statements as Prime Minister (which were not included in this assessment).

Table 1: The top ten MPs in terms of lines in Hansard

1. McHenry Venaani DTA 9,080
2. Ben Ulenga CoD 6,442
3. Arnold Tjihuiko Nudo 5,279
4. Kazenambo Kazenambo Swapo 4,682
5. Kuaima Riruako Nudo 4,267
6. Nora Schimming-Chase CoD 4,149
7. Nahas Angula Swapo 4,069
8. Tsudao Gurirab CoD 3,959
9. Philemon Moongo DTA 3,844
10. Johan de Waal DTA 3,606

The bottom ten

The then Deputy Minister of Environment and Tourism Leon Jooste tops the list of the worst performers in the National Assembly. Between September 2005 and October 2007, Jooste did not contribute to any debates. Leon Jooste resigned from the National Assembly and as a Deputy Minister in January 2009.
There are six deputy ministers in the list (the top five were all deputy ministers during the period under review) – indicating that they do not see playing a prominent role within the National Assembly as a ticket to gaining full ministerial status, if deputies have such ambitions.
Immanuel Ngatjizeko (the then Minister of Trade & Industry) is the only Minister in the ‘bottom ten’ list.

Table 2: The bottom ten MPs in terms of lines in Hansard

1. Leon Jooste Swapo 0
2. Gabes Shihepo Swapo 38
3. Victor Simunja Swapo 48
4. Paul Smit Swapo 216
5. Petrina Haingura Swapo 219
6. Ida Hoffmann Swapo 264
7. Immanuel Ngatjizeko Swapo 305
8. Lempy Lucas Swapo 326
9. Evelyn Nawases Swapo 340
10. Hidipo Hamutenya Swapo 348

Non-elected members

Article 32 (5) (c) of the Constitution states that “the President shall have the power to: appoint as members of the National Assembly but without any vote therein, not more than six (6) persons by virtue of their special expertise, status, skill or experience.” Ida Hoffmann and Paul Smit are among the worst performers in parliament, and the obvious question is why are these MPs contributing so little if they were chosen for their “special expertise, status, skill or experience”? Among the six appointees Becky Ndjoze-Ojo (Deputy Minister of Education) comes out the best, followed by Alexia Manombe-Ncube.

Table 3: Non-voting members appointed by the President in terms of lines in Hansard

1. Becky Ndjoze-Ojo 1297
2. Alexia Manombe-Ncube 1060
3. Charles Namoloh 558
4. Reggie Diergaardt 506
5. Ida Hoffmann 264
6. Paul Smit 216

Opposition MPs
The performance of opposition MPs varies widely. McHenry Venaani is head and shoulders above the rest, with 2,638 more lines than his nearest rival. While a DTA politician tops the list, the CoD is more consistent as a party with Ben Ulenga, Nora Schimming-Chase and Tsudao Gurirab all making significant contributions. The worst-performing party is the UDF as their MPs hog the bottom section of the table.

Table 4: Opposition MPs in terms of lines in Hansard

1. McHenry Venaani DTA 9080
2. Ben Ulenga CoD 6442
3. Arnold Tjihuiko NUDO 5279
4. Kuaima Riruako NUDO 4267
5. Nora Schimming-Chase CoD 4149
6. Tsudao Gurirab CoD 3959
7. Philemon Moongo DTA 3844
8. Johan de Waal DTA 3606
9. Henk Mudge RP 2800
10. Elma Dienda CoD 2698
11. Jurie Viljoen MAG 2387
12. Kala Gertze CoD 2265
13. Katuutire Kaura DTA 2217
14. Michael Goreseb UDF 1358
15. Justus Garoeb UDF 1316
16. Asser Mbai NUDO 800
17. Gustaphine Tjombe UDF 372

Swapo backbenchers

Out of the 55 Swapo MPs 38 hold ministerial or deputy minister posts, leaving 17 who can safely be described as backbenchers. Peya Mushelenga, Tommy Nambahu, and Hage Geingob (who was restored to Cabinet in April 2008) top the list. But the bottom seven on the list when considered together did not even manage the level of contribution of Peya Mushelenga. Women backbenchers feature heavily in the bottom half of this table with Ida Hoffmann, Evelyn Nawases, Lucia Basson, Hansina Christiaan and Loide Kasingo making insignificant contributions during the two-year period.

Table 5: Swapo backbenchers in terms of lines in Hansard

1. Peya Mushelenga 3363
2. Tommy Nambahu 2304
3. Hage Geingob 1795
4. Moses Amweelo 1624
5. Chief Ankama 1409
6. Elia Kaiyamo 1308
7. Jeremia Nambinga 1281
8. Alexia Manombe-Ncube 1060
9. Loide Kasingo 583
10. Royal /Ui/o/oo 521
11. Reggie Diergaardt 506
12. Hansina Christiaan 476
13. Hans Booys 424
14. Lucia Basson 410
15. Hidipo Hamutenya. 348
16. Evelyn Nawases 340
17. Ida Hoffmann 264

Conclusion

Overall the performance of parliamentarians was not very impressive. Over a two-year period some 36 MPs did not manage to record more than a thousand lines in Hansard. Twenty MPs did not manage even 500 lines.
Political parties are currently in the process of compiling their lists of candidates for the National Assembly election. The criteria that parties use to choose their candidates are unclear. However, it would seem obvious that candidates should be expected to have the ability and inclination to contribute to parliamentary debate on a regular basis. This would include the necessary language skills, assertiveness and policy awareness to make meaningful speeches and interventions.
As national elections approach, Namibians should consider not only what the parties are saying in their manifestos but also the quality of the representatives they want to see elected.

* About the authors: Ellison Tjirera holds a BA in Sociology and Industrial Psychology from the University of Namibia. He is currently a research intern at the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR). Graham Hopwood is the Executive Director of the IPPR.

© 2017 Election Watch

Election Watch is a project of the Institute for Public Policy Research in Windhoek, Namibia. Election Watch is funded by the European Union and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives.