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Constitutional changes too individualistic - Opposition

2014-08-13  Mathias Haufiku

Constitutional changes too individualistic - Opposition
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WINDHOEK - A Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) member of parliament has made startling claims that the proposed amendments to the country’s constitution are designed to benefit a few individuals at the expense of the masses.

Debate on the Third Constitutional Amendment Bill kicked off in the National Assembly yesterday, but it was youth minister Jerry Ekandjo who took centre stage by stating that the Namibian constitution is essentially a Swapo Party constitution.

This, Ekandjo explained, was because the country’s constitution was drafted using the Swapo constitution as the guiding document.

Ekandjo’s remarks drew a barrage of criticism from opposition MPs, who called on the minister to withdraw the statement.

Ekandjo’s claim surfaced in reaction to the contribution to the debate by the RDP’s Heiko Lucks. “The present members of the opposition were not there when we drafted the constitution in 1989, they do not know its origin,” said Ekandjo.

“During the Constituent Assembly in November 1989, our current prime minister [Hage Geingob] as the chairperson of that assembly in 1989, requested all parties involved in the drafting of the constitution to submit their draft constitutions and the Swapo draft constitution was chosen to be the draft constitution on which the Namibian constitution would be based,” said Ekandjo.

“That constitution you are defending is a Swapo constitution, it is our constitution,” the minister said.

A visibly surprised Lucks replied: “Honourable Speaker, in my four years as a member of this House I never heard such a shocking statement, to claim that the Namibian constitution is a Swapo Party draft constitution is shocking to the extreme. These are normally remarks made by dictators.”

The RDP MP added: “This is a Shanghala-Geingob Bill ... It must be classified as a private member’s Bill authored by two people to promote personal interests.” 

He was referring to the active participation of Law Reform and Development Commission chairperson Sacky Shanghala and Prime Minister Hage Geingob in shaping the proposed amendments.

Geingob took the floor to deny Lucks’ claims.

But Lucks continued: “The Minister of Justice told me here in the National Assembly that the LRDC does not have commissioners. Now I ask, who drew up this Bill if the LRDC had no commissioners. It clearly had no mandate, authority or legal standing to do so.

“It is clear that this Bill was drawn up by an individual under orders of another individual and this makes the whole process highly suspicious.”

Lucks said his party was not consulted on the proposed constitutional changes and called for the Bill to be postponed until after the November elections.

“The Prime Minister and his friend had a clever strategy to invite the opposition to the so-called consultations so as to claim that widespread consultations were held. RDP was not consulted, we were invited three or four weeks ago for discussions with the PM, and at that occasion the finished product was presented to us, no consultations were made.”

Swanu President Usutuaije Maamberua also condemned Ekandjo’s remarks.

“The intervention from Jerry [Ekandjo] on insinuating the lack of mandate of the current opposition, because they were not members of the Constituent Assembly is shocking, and insinuating that the Namibian constitution is a Swapo Party constitution is very serious,” he said.

“As a result, this necessitates that we halt this debate on the amendments and refer this matter to a parliamentary committee on constitutional matters so that the population can be consulted. This Bill must be sent back to the people, give the people a chance to express themselves. Swapo must amend its constitution and the people must amend their own,” he said.

After enduring some fiery blows from members of the opposition, Ekandjo at a later stage took the floor to clarify his remarks.

“Honourable Dirk Mudge proposed that the Swapo draft constitution should serve as a working base, that is what I said. Most of the articles and sections in the current Namibian constitution derive from our draft constitution.”

Yesterday, a coalition of local NGOs held a low-key demonstration at parliament to express their concerns over the proposed amendments.

“That constitution you are defending is a Swapo constitution, it is our constitution” - Ekandjo

By Mathias Haufiku

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2014-08-13  Mathias Haufiku

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