Pull-out quote: “The Commission is constituted only every ten years and if citizens do not express themselves, they will have to live with the boundaries of their regions and constituencies for the next ten years.”
IPPR: How do you see the role of the Delimitation Commission in the election process?
Delimitation Commission: The Commission does not play a direct role in the election process. The Commission’s tasks are stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, as well as in Section 5 of the Regional Councils Act. In terms of these two documents, the Commission’s role is confined to making recommendations to the Head of State pertaining to changes to boundaries of existing regions or the creation of new regions; or the division or re-division of existing regions into constituencies. Once these boundaries have been demarcated, the Electoral Commission can then update the voters’ roll to be consistent with the newly defined borders, constituencies and regions. However, the election process in Namibia is managed by the Electoral Commission. It is important to note that these two Commissions are independent of each other yet inter-dependent.
IPPR: What are the main factors that you take into consideration when making decisions on constituency and regional boundaries?
DC: The main criteria that the Commission considers in evaluation of proposals by concerned parties are stipulated in the Regional Councils Act and include the number of eligible voters resident in a particular constituency or region; the geographical features of a region or constituency; infrastructure, resources and means of communication in regions and constituencies; the socio-economic characteristics and circumstances in a region or constituency; the effective exercise and performance of the powers, duties and functions of the regional council; and other considerations that concerned parties may raise during public hearing or in written submission. It is however important to note that in terms of the Constitution of the Republic, the Commission may not consider ethnic or tribal considerations in the demarcation of regions and constituencies.
IPPR: Based on your consultations in the regions that you have visited so far, what have your observations been?
DC: The commission has been very pleased with the consultations in the regions visited so far. There has been a strong interest in the work of the Commission in regions visited thus far. It is encouraging to note that people are exercising their democratic rights and have made a number of proposals that the Commission is currently in the process of evaluating.
IPPR: Why is it important that the Namibian public participate in the consultations of the Commission and providing their input?
DC: It is important for citizens to exercise their democratic rights, and the Commission is pleased that interested parties have thus far shown tremendous interest in the work of the Commission. Ultimately, the demarcations of regions and constituencies may have an impact on the delivery of services. The Commission is constituted only every ten years, and if citizens do not express themselves, they will have to live with the boundaries of their regions and constituencies for the next ten years before there will be an opportunity again to express themselves on issues that may impact on service delivery. We must, however, note that the issue of service delivery goes beyond the creation of regions and constituencies, but this is one of the important platforms where concerned stakeholders can air their views and make suggestions for improvement.
IPPR: How does the Commission deal with the possibilities of gerrymandering?
DC: As mentioned earlier, the Commission is guided by a number of principles enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic as well as the Regional Councils Act. Over and beyond this, the Commission members deliberate extensively on proposals made by concerned stakeholders. The Commission also endeavours to prevent the possibility of gerrymandering by inviting the full participation of all stakeholders and having transparent public consultations with them.