By: Justicia Shipena
LPM deputy leader Henny Seibeb says Namibian parliamentarians are the laziest globally and are robbing taxpayers.
Seibeb said this in an interview with Eagle FM regarding parliament’s achievements thus far.
Last month, the national assembly took a break and will resume on 7 June 2022.
“We are robbing the taxpayers of their money. We are the laziest parliamentarians in the world because we do the least work compared to parliaments in Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, etc.,” said Seibeb.
Seibeb said the national assembly, regarding the rate of bills passed, is zero. “We can’t sit from February until April to approve one bill, which is the appropriation bill on the budget. It can’t be,” he said.
The bills up for tabling include the Criminal Procedure Amendment Bill, High Court Amendment Bill, Magistrates Court Amendment Bill, Divorce Bill, Torture Bill, Obsolete Laws Bill, Ombudsman Bill, Child Justice Bill, Marriage Bill, and Uniform Marriages Bill. Justice minister Yvonne Dausab tabled the Combating of Rape Amendment Bill and Combating of Domestic Violence Amendment Bill earlier this year.
He stated that parliament is supposed to pass a targeted number of bills by the end of the year, as indicated upon the opening of parliament this year.
“If you look at the number of bills that were promised to be passed, it is disappointing,” he expressed.
Seibeb said that the bills that are likely to be passed are 16.
“If we start with the land bill, this bill will take up more time. Draft one of the land bill consists of nearly 300 pages. Do you think we will complete those 300 pages in two months or a month?” he questioned.
During the opening of parliament in February this year, President Hage Geingob noted that many of the bills on parliament’s agenda were carried over from last year.
MPS SUBMITTING USELESS MOTIONS
Seibeb added that political parties submit many unnecessary motions to compete with each other.
This, according to him, makes the parliament inefficient. He said there seems to be a competition between some opposition political parties regarding motions.
“To the extent that they even say that political parties are submitting motions that are not substantive,” he said.
He also stated that due to democracy, all proposed motions are brought forth.
“That makes the order paper so congested. At one stage, I think we had a long list of motions. On top of that, Thursdays are for ministers to respond to their questions, and those questions go into something like 100. So it is a long list, and some questions and motions have lapsed,” he explained.
He further said ministers are not coming on time to respond to the questions that the members ask them.
He said some motions are policy issues that can be addressed at a policy level.
“These are motions that parliamentarians confuse and think parliament is the only place where they can talk and be seen.”
He urged national assembly speaker Peter Katjavivi to take this seriously.
“The speaker is a weak speaker by nature. He is very weak. He does not even deserve to be a speaker. He is weak, and because of his weakness, parliament has become a useless house,” he stressed.
Seibeb said the national assembly needs to develop a system that works for them.
“In a month, we only have four or eight days to discuss all those 30 motions and hundred questions. It does not happen. The speaker needs to design a special formula for it to work.”
He pressed for the parliament rules to be changed.
“This is to reduce the holiday period of parliament. The rules must be changed, and maybe we must also sit on Friday mornings or from Monday to Friday because this thing of only sitting on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday is becoming inefficient,” he added.
Moreover, he said there is a lack of understanding of the role of parliament.
“There is a lack of understanding of the type of motions that MPs must bring before the house.”
He added that some members of parliament are not active in the house since they were elected.
“Like some parties are not even active. They don’t even open their mouths. So this is the reality we find ourselves in.”
Meanwhile, NEFF MP Kalimbo Iipumbu said parliament would only be on track when there are no unwanted debates.
“This is in terms of changing policies and passing the bills we’re proposing to parliament. When people are serious, things will happen. If people come to parliament as bulldozers and do not contribute to the bills, it will push us behind.”
Iipumbu said more bills will be passed this year.
“Let’s hope nothing comes in our way regarding Covid-19 like last time,” he said.
He added that they had complained about the budget finalised by the cabinet, which he says comes to parliament to be rubber-stamped.
“That is something we are concerned about. Regarding the budget, there is nothing we can say because for it to come to parliament is just a matter of rubber-stamping it but not necessarily to contribute and allow space for changes,” he emphasised.
“That is just a process that they want to say things happen in that way but in an actual fact is that nothing will change in the budget.”
Additionally, Iipumbu also said parliamentarians misunderstand the purpose of being a member of parliament.
“We ought to be there to debate issues and contribute to things that will build the nation. You get these parliamentarians who want to prove perhaps how to articulate particular things. It is true by Seibeb saying that there are people that come in and debate for the sake of it, ” he added.
In this vein, he referred to Swapo parliamentarians.
“Look at even the way the Swapo party members behave in parliament. Some of them are just sitting there as potatoes, dead potatoes not even bringing anything to be discussed in parliament or else for them it is just to stand up and rise to others and object to certain things.”
He said that some come up with irrelevant issues that are not even contributing to the national program.
THE HOUSE IS IN ORDER
Meanwhile, Nudo SG Joseph Kauandenge disagreed with Seibeb’s sentiments, stating that parliament is finally on track.
“The Coram of the house in terms of mutual respect has come back, and debates in the national assembly are becoming more mature,” he said.
Kauandenge said the debates on the floor indicate that more bills will be passed this year as opposed to last.
Touching on the budget debate, he said the budget debate is a waste of time and energy.
“It is a fruitless exercise, really. We have to change the whole setup on how the national budget is debated and bring that power back to the national assembly so that if the NA can make amendments to the budget, they must be able to do so.”
Responding to Seibeb’s statement on useless motions, he said that every individual differs, and what is not helpful to him might benefit another.
“If it is a waste of time to you, it might not necessarily be a waste of time to the next person. So far, my impression has been that all the motions brought to parliament aim to address a particular issue of interest to that party. I wouldn’t say there is a wastage of time.”
Hence he said the first quarter of this year’s parliamentary debates were more successful than the last two years.
MORE NEEDS TO BE DONE
PDM MP Inna Henagri says the house is on track, but more can be done.
“I think perhaps we need to revisit the procedure in parliament in terms of how we address issues that have been carried over from the previous year to ensure they don’t stay in the order paper for too long,” said Hengari.
She said there is a need to find concessions on issues that affect people in the country.
“Most debates are turned into a tassel between the political parties and opposition parties and executive of the government. It becomes about who is stronger and the guy with the bigger muscle, and it should not be that way,” said Hengari.
She said the nature of any democracy is that it allows for free speech.
“The speaker needs to enforce the rules of the house. The standings rules and arrangements are clear in how the speaker can guide debates in the house. So as long as the speaker is biased and takes sides with the ruling party, we can not get anywhere. We need a speaker that is impartial and able to guide debates properly and Members of parliament and their behaviours in the house.”
Parliament Secretary Lydia Kandetu also told The Villager that the house is on track.
Geingob this year said the bills before parliament are essential to address pressing problems in society.
“For this reason, we have to redouble our efforts to dispense with them as quickly as possible if we aim to truly make a difference in the lives of our people. Let us not delay progress but rather, let us all strive to work tirelessly to become catalysts for peace, safety, economic development and prosperity,” he had said.