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Democracy Report

Week in Review: September 12-15

The National Assembly is back!

But of course, things tend to start slowly after recess and so there is not much to report for this week. One particularly newsworthy thing did happen: after months of deliberation, the National Assembly finally sent the Time Bill off to the President. Once he signs it and gazettes it, the bill will become law — in other words, it looks like this year’s winter time was the last.

The Time Bill should be a teachable moment for how not to do public consultations, as we wrote about earlier. Initially, the Ministry of Home Affairs sent out invitations for written comments to specific stakeholder and ran ads telling people they could email in or write letters.

The Ministry received around 3,500 responses, most of which said we should do away with winter time. But when they tabled a bill to do just that, social media exploded with people who were unhappy with the change.

You can blame folks for not getting involved. But the reality is that not everyone sees print ads, and of those, many are either unable to, or uncomfortable with, writing an official statement on an issue. Is it not possible that the people most in favour of getting rid of winter time – business people, for example – would be the most able to lobby government in this way?

On an issue like this, where all Namibians have an opinion, government could have made it really easy for people to comment. A simple facebook post could have gathered thousands of responses from people. Unfortunately, this did not happen. And then the Ministry of Education dropped the ball, saying they needed time to consider the issue and respond – when Home Affairs had already sent them an invitation to comment months before.

We will see next year how Namibians really feel about winter time. Hopefully, future consultations will be better.

15 September 2017