Swapo must get ahead of its donations dilemma

QUESTIONS around who funds our political parties have always been shrouded in secrecy since Namibia became a constitutional democracy in 1990, but the allegations around how Swapo bigwigs benefitted from the Fishrot scam should not only warrant a paradigm shift in how the party handles its donations but also trigger an investigation into those implicated.

Indeed, political parties that may have received donations between 2014 to November 17 2019 would not have been under statutory obligation to publicly disclose gifts as the prescribed amount beyond which donations must be publicly disclosed did not exist at the time, however, with eroded trust in the ruling party, those whose names have been linked to the Fishrot funds and whose bank accounts clearly show a benefit link should brought to book.

While the party has declared that it never benefitted from Fishrot, the lack of action regarding these individuals that are publicly known paints a wrong idea in the minds of the electorate.

On top of this, Swapo must with immediate effect investigate and stop individuals in the party that have always used the name of the ruling party to go and source funding with ulterior motives.

These individuals have for long been a cancer and are partially responsible for where the party finds itself now.

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If this loophole is not closed then the party will have no one to blame for its dwindling support base in the future.

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We appreciate that President Hage Geingob acknowledged this past weekend that the party will self-introspect and rope in sweeping changes to regulate how it sources funding but this should start with bringing to book members who have in the recent past plunged the party into disrepute.

Apart from this, we welcome the move by the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) to finally put in place a regulatory law, with effect from November 18 2019, that total donations that political parties may receive from a Namibian or a Namibian institution should not exceed N$4 million per financial year, while a total sum of donations received from foreign persons or foreign institutions should not exceed N$2 million for a particular year.

Legislation to control private funding in Namibia was long overdue because its absence opens the door to corruption and citizens need to know who is paying the piper.

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What we cannot deny is that multiparty democracy depends on knowing where donations come from.

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That’s because private contributions to a political party are made in anticipation that the party will advance a particular social interest, policy or viewpoint. A public armed with information about who is providing candidates with the most support are in a much better position to detect any post-election special favours they may be given in return.

Our country’s Constitution states that the Republic is founded on the values of “accountability, responsiveness and openness”. There can be no doubt that revealing party funding gives effect to the spirit of the Constitution.