Constitutional amendments set to sail through

15 August 2014 Author  

front hage 15 augPrime Minister Hage Geingob seemed to have finally managed to bring the Constitutional Amendments Bill back on track on Wednesday afternoon after initially facing fierce resistance in the National Assembly. This week the Prime Minister and members of the ruling Swapo party had to out-manoeuvre numerous attempts, not only to derail the passing of the draft Bill, but also to disrupt parliamentary discussions.

 

It now appears that the Bill will pass with little resistance after Geingob took the time to explain both the procedure followed as well as the contents of the intended legislation extensively.

Tensions had mounted since unknown persons leaked the draft Bill to the media as opposition parties and civil society organisations mobilised the public to reject the passing of the amendments.

However, on Tuesday afternoon as the debate began in the National Assembly a mass demonstration organised by local Non-Governmental Organisations and opposition parties, failed to attract the anticipated numbers.

At the same time as the protest, the opposition led by the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) parliamentarian Heiko Lucks fired their first of many bullets directed at the Prime Minister in the National Assembly.

Lucks caused quite a stir as he dubbed the Bill the Geingob/Shanghala Bill and stated that one friend had designed the Bill to suit another friend.

He charged that the Law Reform Development Commission, which up to this day had not appointed any commissioners, had no mandate to propose the amendments.

“It is clear that this Bill was drawn up by an individual under the orders of another individual, and this makes the whole thing very suspicious,” Lucks said.

He stressed that Government had not consulted the opposition on the constitutional amendments before it tabled them in parliament contrary to what it had tried to make the public believe.

The opposition debate gained momentum when Philemon Moongo of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) took to the floor to question the motive behind the proposed amendments.

“With just three months left before national elections, what do you want to achieve with all the proposed amendments?”

“Will it create more jobs for the jobless Namibians or will it address poverty and hunger. I thought these were the urgent, thorny and pressing problems,” Moongo said.

He asked Swapo MPs why they were afraid of having elections before the passing of the amendments, and stressed that three months was not sufficient time to alter the supreme law of the land.

However, apart from criticising the procedure followed and the time given for the passing of the Bill, the opposition party members disappointingly failed to address the actual contents of the Bill.

On Wednesday afternoon, the house sat for a second round of debate where the All Peoples Party (APP) President Ignatius Shixwameni shockingly turned the tables on his fellow opposition members.

He refuted claims by RDP’s Lucks that Government had not consulted the opposition and revealed that his party had met with the Prime Minister and his team for over three hours – not for an information session, but a consultation.

Shixwameni also raised the issue of the proposed introduction of a vice-president office, which he said was merely aimed to guarantee inclusivity in top government positions.

“Who have failed to bring about inclusivity for the past 25 years? How do we address the division along ethnic/tribal lines and socio-economic status in the SWAPO party?

“The government and SWAPO actually need an admission and clear explanation to the nation as to why we are where we are today in terms of nation building? Why now all this?

“Do we want to say that former President Sam Nujoma and the current incumbent President Hifikepunye Pohamba where unable to govern this country properly and progressively?

“And do we want to say all their advisors (including all of you ministers and deputies who are seated her) were not and are not up to the task within the current constitutional framework,” he said.

After the APP leader, Geingob took the floor and with one clean sweep addressed the allegations and claims against him and the amendments and also recognised Shixwameni for telling the truth and shaming other opposition MPs.

The same evening at a public information session held at the Katutura Community Hall, the Prime Minister reiterated the points he made in parliament whilst addressing what he called misinformation to the public.

Geingob started by explaining that they had invited all opposition parties to the Office of the Prime Minister and even showed the invitations he sent out.

During the consultations, they explained and debated each proposed amendment thoroughly.

He admitted that the introduction of the position of vice-president would make the executive top-heavy.

However, he said people needed to look beyond the top-heavy structure and focus on the intent of the amendment

“Namibia is still a country divided along tribal lines and no one can deny that. My recent statement in Parliament sought to address this issue.

“Therefore it is important that we look at this top heavy structure in the context of nation building.

“What we are trying to achieve by this is to ensure that the Executive is representative of the diversity of our country,” Geingob said.

Most importantly, he addressed the fears that Namibia would turn into a dictatorship.

He quoted what Niels Bohr said about dictatorship, “The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.

“Are we claiming that the proposed amendments to the constitution have taken place in secrecy?

“Some capitalise on the argument that the masses lack access to information and want you to believe that, but let me tell you that they couldn’t be further from the truth,” Geingob said. – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

WINDHOEK OBSERVER

The Windhoek Observer is an English-language weekly newspaper, published in Namibia by Paragon Investment Holding. It is the country's oldest and largest circulating weekly.

Contact Us

Windhoek Observer House
c/o John Meinert & Rossini Street
Windhoek West
Namibia
Tel: +264 61 411 800
Fax: +264 61 226 098
www.observer.com.na