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National Assembly defends parly privileges committee

2021-09-15  Maria Amakali

National Assembly defends parly privileges committee
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The National Assembly has defended the manner in which the parliamentary committee on privileges handled the investigations against Landless People’s Movement leaders Bernadus Swartbooi and Henny Seibeb.

Earlier this month, the two lawmakers were found guilty of misconduct by a parliamentary committee, which suggested to parliament it should impose a penalty on Swartbooi and Seibeb. 

The parliamentary committee also suggested they should not receive further punishment.

National Assembly spokesperson David Nahogandja said any sanctions to be imposed against the two lawmakers will be decided by the August House and not by speaker Peter Katjavivi. 

“As it stands, the committee has completed its work and submitted the report for the House’s deliberations and decision,” explained Nahogandja in a statement, reacting to an editorial in one of the local dailies. 

Swartbooi and Seibeb on 15 April 2021 brought the joint sitting of parliament to a standstill while President Hage Geingob delivered his annual state of the nation address. 

The pair caused several disruptions and got embroiled in a shouting match that eventually ended in their removal from the session.  

Swartbooi also knocked off the ceremonial mace from its stand, and Seibeb was led out the door by Geingob’s security. 

The sitting was then adjourned – and in May, the High Court dismissed, with cost, a case in which the two parliamentarians were challenging the decision by Speaker Peter Katjavivi to bar them from attending parliament. However, the Supreme Court’s appeal against a decision by Katjavivi to suspend them from parliament succeeded. 

The report was last week submitted to parliament by Swapo's Philipus Katamelo.

Swartbooi responded that the report was false, factually inaccurate and presents itself legally shamefully, while questioning Katjavivi’s position as chairperson of the committee of privileges.

He said it is not true they did not make themselves available, and said they met with the speaker and raised their objections in writing about how the process was unfolding.

He said their lawyers asked Katjavivi to recuse himself but he refused to hear it.

Swartbooi said it was "procedurally wrong" for the speaker to submit a report to a committee he is chairing.

"You can't be the one who reports the matter, sits on that matter, hears the evidence and is also the judge in that matter," said Swartbooi. He further said he was never given the opportunity to recuse himself from the committee of which he is a member but was removed by Katjavivi.

However, Nahogandja said the law is clear on the powers of the committee as well as the powers of the chairperson.

Furthermore, the committee has a duty to investigate and report to the House for it to make a decision.

In the same vein, Nahogandja said the reports to cast doubt in Katjavivi’s chairmanship by a local daily newspaper are disingenuous, as it is provided for by part II Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act, Act No. 17 of 1996.

He added the notion that when a member of parliament breaks the standing rules and orders, they should not be disciplined but rejected.  - mamakali@nepc.com.na


2021-09-15  Maria Amakali

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