13. August 2014

Constitutional changes debate heats up

SWAPO members of parliament yesterday refused to budge and continued to push forward the bid to amend the Constitution despite the rising opposition.
The ruling party MPs arrived ready to fight, with executive positions coming in numbers to defend their newly found conviction to amend the Constitution.

Some opposition MPS hurled insults at Swapo MPs calling them ‘power-hungry’ and ‘cobras’, but the energised ruling party MPs made life difficult for the opposition, hardly allowing them to state their case. In a show of solidarity, the opposition joined forces to have the bill sent back for public consultation. Like playground bullies, the Swapo side either found a joke in the opposition’s contribution or responded by reprimanding them.

RDP’s Heiko Lucks was first to face Swapo’s highly charged force, calling for the bill to be shelved until next year when a new parliament is sworn in.

Challenging the legality of the bill, Lucks said the Law Reform and Development Commission was not fully constituted to draft the bill and recommend amendments.

Lucks said there was no consultation and that Prime Minister Hage Geingob inviting them to discuss the changes but disguised such discussions as consultations.

He also said the bill is now widely known as the “Geingob and Shanghala bill”, which he called a “private matters bill” because it was being championed by two individuals. Lucks was not allowed to finish his submission after Swapo MPs kept interrupting him.

“I have serious reservations about a process of rushing amendments with three months to go before the national elections,” he said, asking: “Is it morally justifiable to change the Constitution to accommodate Swapo’s gender quota?”

Swapo’s Angelica Muharukua called for a point of order, demanding that Lucks should withdraw Shanghala’s name since he was not a part of the House.

Finance Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila also jumped into the discussion calling for the opposition not to think that by consultation they have the right to veto bills.

“We don’t have to reach consensus,” she said.

The Minister of Youth, Sports minister Jerry Ekandjo also said that most of the opposition MPs were not present in 1990 when the Constitution was drafted and that they do not understand it. Ekandjo made reference to the Constitution as a ‘Swapo constitution’ and ‘our constitution’.

“It is our country and the Constitution also,” shouted RDP’s Agnes Limbo.

Although the opposition demanded that Ekandjo should withdraw the statement, the Speaker Theo-Ben Gurirab did not reprimand him. Lucks then called Ekandjo’s remarks dictatorial.

Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba was also quick to point out that he would not leave his seat in parliament for the opposition.

“We are here because we have been elected by Namibian people,” Mbumba said. “The minority parties want to speak for everybody and want the majority party not to speak at all. We will never allow the minority parties to speak louder than us. If I lose my seat, I will not leave it for you. I will leave it to my fellow young Swapo members, but I will not leave it for you,” he said.

Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua said Ekandjo’s remarks implied that because they were not present in the House in 1990, they do not have a mandate to discuss the changes to the Constitution. He proposed that the debate should stop and the matter be referred to a committee to consult the nation.

“Let’s stop the insults to the people that came after 1990 in this country. It is time to retire. The time has come to get new ideas. The youth must now take over. Those who have been here since 1990, your term has expired. It is time to give the youth a chance,” said Maamberua.

Foreign Affairs Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwa also referred to Lucks’ comments, saying the population was not 1,2 million in 1990, but it is in 2014 hence the need to enlarge parliament.

Maamberua then jumped in, saying that it seemed that those who came after 1990 do not know or understand the Constitution.

“That is why they are stuck in the House. They want to stay up to the bitter end. You cannot stay in parliament forever. We were still Namibians in 1990. Your time is up. Go to your house and retire,” he said.

Lucks also told the Swapo MPs to “Please go spend time with your grandchildren”.

Geingob, who kept his comments to the minimum throughout, only reacted when Maamberua said that he was trying to create a one-party state.

“This is now getting personal,” he said. “ I’m shocked at some of the comments in this House. Swanu talks like it represents all Namibian people when they only represent zero point zero of the population,” he said.

Maamberua then demanded an apology from the PM for his statement, but Geingob refused. “Just because I said I apologised to somebody (McHenry Venaani), doesn’t mean I’m now in the mood to apologise to everybody,” Geingob hit back. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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