Speaking during the opening of the Ninth Session of the Sixth Parliament on Wednesday, President Hage Geingob tasked lawmakers with several legislative goals to make Namibian law better serve the needs of the people.
Geingob urged Parliament to pass legislation that will help combat social ills that hamper socio-economic progress in Namibia.
The theme for this year’s opening of Parliament was ‘Promoting Integrity, Accountability and Professionalism.’
He insisted that lawmakers prioritize the replacement of the unjust laws of the past regime, with effective legislation that addresses current realities within the parameters of the Namibian constitution.
He said the Namibian nation cannot continue to be subjected to “archaic and discriminatory” laws, calling on parliamentarians to work towards addressing shortcomings in local laws and statutes.
The president insisted that the tabling of bills during this session demands commitment and a higher work ethic from legislators, in order to ensure that Parliament maintains a better success rate in passing bills.
Geingob said Parliament, as the legislative body of Government, is the linchpin of the country’s governance architecture, which includes carrying out critical functions such as law making, representation of the electorate and oversight of Government activities.
“The execution of these vital functions and the responsibility of representing the electorate, requires that parliamentarians should be paragons of virtue,” he said.
The Head of State said parliamentarians as the representatives of the people should always be mindful of the fact that the most valuable asset they possess is their reputation.
“Once one parliamentarian's reputation is damaged, your effectiveness becomes impeded. Subsequently, ineffectiveness of politicians will have adverse consequences on our governance architecture, leading to losses in government revenue, lower quality public investment and public services, reduced private investment and loss of public confidence. Let your attendance and punctuality be a source of pride rather than allowing tardiness and absenteeism to be a source of your shame,” he said.
The president was at pains to note that there has been a growing trend of trust deficit between the public and governments, not only in Namibia, but worldwide.
“Issues such as perceived corruption are negatively affecting accountability and political credibility. It is for this reason that I coined the formula accountability + transparency = trust.”
He said Parliament, as the primary symbol of democracy, is an essential element in the country’s efforts to combat corruption. “Integrity, accountability and professionalism are the foundations of effective governance and facilitative the pursuit of our development objectives, while at the same time, protecting us from debilitating behaviour such as corruption,” he said.
Geingob said it is crucial that leaders improve the trust people have in Government and that such trust should begin in Parliament, where the representatives of the electorate endeavour to fulfil the important function of keeping democratic institutional systems accountable and transparent.
The President appealed to all parliamentarians to behave according to the code of conduct during debates. Reflecting the rising criticism of absenteeism in the halls of Parliament, he disparaged lawmakers for a lack of quorum in the House.
Geingob told parliamentarians that the year of accountability requires Namibians to rise to the ongoing socio-economic challenges the country faces.
“This year is a defining year. A year in which we either decide to hold hands together to consolidate and build upon our hard-earned gains or risk losing the decades of progress we have made since our independence in 1990,” he explained.
Geingob said he is looking forward to a year where Parliament will display integrity in representing the electorate, promote accountability through providing oversight and display professionalism in crafting of the legislation.
In December 2018, Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala tabled a bill in the National Assembly to scrap about 144 discriminatory and outdated legislative pieces from the Namibian law books.
In 2017, 19 bills were passed in the National Assembly out of the 40 bills which were tabled. Last year, 20 bills were passed.