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Constitutional provisions smoothen succession

2024-02-05  Maria Sheya

Constitutional provisions smoothen succession

AS the nation struggles to come to terms with the sudden loss of its third president, Hage Geingob, who died in the early hours of yesterday morning, most Namibians had questions about what would happen to the highest seat in the country. 

This was before new President Nangolo Mbumba was sworn in at State House yesterday in yet another smooth transfer of power in Namibia.

Legal commentator Natji Tjirera noted that the Namibian Constitution is very clear on the succession plan when the head of state dies before his term in office comes to an end.

He said in terms of Article 29(4)(a); “If a President dies, resigns or is removed from office in terms of this Constitution, the vacant office of President shall be filled for the unexpired period thereof as follows:

(a) if the vacancy occurs not more than one year before the date on which Presidential elections are required to be held; the vacancy shall be filled in accordance with the provisions of Article 34 hereof”. Article 34 puts the Vice President as the next man in line to succeed if the president’s position becomes vacant.

“The Constitution is, however, silent on when a new president must be sworn in. But with such a position, it is not advisable for it to be vacant for too long. The sooner the swearing-in is done, the better,” said Tjirera.

Another lawyer, Bernhard Tjatjara, said that succession will be effected in terms of the Constitution. 

He observed that one of the striking features of the Namibian Constitution is the 2014 flagship third constitutional amendment, which created the position of Vice President, to further regulate the hierarchy of succession. 

“Because the vacancy has arisen not more than a year before the date on which presidential elections are to be held, the vacancy shall be filled in accordance with the provisions of Article 34 hereof,” Tjatjara stated. He added that “… at this juncture, the Vice President, in terms of succession, should step in as acting President (not President). This is a constitutional imperative. He will assume the Office of the President in an acting capacity until the expiration of the remaining portion of the now-deceased President’s term of office”.

Tjatjara further explained that prior to the 2014 amendments to the Constitution, it would have been the Prime Minister who ascended after the President’s demise.

He said the current perception that there would be presidential elections within 90 days is wrong, as the vacancy did occur not more than one year before the date on which Presidential elections are to be held.

“That is a dictation of Article 29(4)(a) of the Namibian Constitution, as it stands. The acting President will serve in that capacity until March 2025. It is technically flawed and inaccurate to use the words new President instead of acting President,” Tjatjara reasoned.

2024-02-05  Maria Sheya

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