18 and 19 Oct. 2001

NAMIBIA: Controversial Anti-Corruption Bill discussed in Parliament

Prime Minister Hage Geingob on Oct 18 agreed to remove a controversial section which exempts the President from the Anti-Corruption Bill. Geingob said in Parliament that section 36 which exempts the President from the Bill should be removed "as other existing instruments cover the President".

Section 36 has been a bone of contention for the opposition, with several MPs demanding that the President of the country be covered by the Bill. They stressed that although the current President might be free from corruption, it would be difficult to predict the behaviour of future presidents."

"I see their (the opposition's) concerns and understand their confusion," Geingob said.

He, however, admonished opposition MPs for not doing research and realising that "other instruments" deal with the President. He did not specify what these instruments were, although the Constitution has a section on the President's Immunity from Civil and Criminal Proceedings. This states that the President cannot be charged with any criminal offence in connection with any act performed during his term of office. However, Parliament by a two-thirds majority can impeach the President and vote to remove him or her from office if there has been a serious violation of the law.

Geingob also criticised the Bill for failing to address the issue of declaration of assets by politicians, civil servants and others. "There is need for mandatory uniform Code of Conduct and a register of assets to be put in place both for the private and public disclosure... I therefore propose that a clause be introduced that will comprehensively deal with the declaration of assets by developing a comprehensive form to be filed by all politicians, civil servants and others."

Pressure had mounted in the National Assembly the day before for the President to be covered by the Anti-Corruption Bill.

Opposition parliamentarian Johan de Waal said granting the President exemption created the impression that "we are afraid that the President of our country, and by that I mean any president, not necessarily the present one, may be inclined towards corruption, and we must therefore protect him or her by exclusion from the Bill". Added De Waal: "We also say that we know that the President is above suspicion and therefore we are confident about including him or her in the Bill."

Also the Congress of Democrats (CoD) had warned against turning the Office of the President into "a demigod institution" by exempting it from the Bill. CoD Member of Parliament Ignatius Shixwameni said it was "tantamount to turning the office into a demigod institution". "We don't believe in personality cults and hero-worshipping," Shixwameni said. "Legislation is not made looking at the person or party in office, but must cover all unforeseen circumstances to be able to stand the test of time," he said.

Shixwameni said one way of combating corruption is to ensure that politicians and senior civil servants openly and publicly register and declare their assets and economic and financial interests for the public to know and be able to judge who is enriching themselves and who is corrupt. He also said that all political parties represented in Parliament had to be forced to present audited financial statements annually to Parliament to account for the money given to them by the State.

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