At least six opposition parties are expected to file an urgent application tomorrow, seeking an interdict against the alleged irregular procedure which paved the way for the reappointment of Paulus Noa and Erna van der Merwe as director general and deputy director general of the Anti-Corruption Commission, respectively.
The National Assembly (NA)’s approval of three new Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) commissioners will also be affected by the latest legal challenge. The NA, amid protestations by members of the opposition, last week approved President Hage Geingob’s nomination of Noa and Van der Merwe as the top ACC officials for another five years.
The August House also approved the nomination of Elsie Nghikembua, Joram Rukambe and Emmerentia Leonard as commissioners of the ECN, amid huge resistance from members of the opposition, who later staged a walkout. Opposition leader McHenry Venaani confirmed yesterday that they will approach the High Court with a view to nullify last week’s appointments. He said his party PDM and five other “progressive” opposition parties will launch an urgent court interdict against parliament to challenge the “irregular procedure” of calling a special session by extending a proclamation.
Other concerned parties include the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), All People’s Party (APP), the Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters (NEEF), Republican Party (RP) and the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo). PDM chief whip Vipua Muharukua, who is also a lawyer by profession, last week said a special session cannot be called by the National Assembly’s secretary. Furthermore, he argued that it cannot be called in anticipation of a proclamation by the President. “Members must be given due notice to attend parliament. It is the right of all elements of parliament to be part of these important debates. The calling of a special session is a serious administrative act, which ought to be exercised judiciously, as Article 18 of our constitution dictates,” he charged. Meanwhile, political analyst Graham Hopwood described the ‘kindergarten’ atmosphere in the National Assembly last week, which APP MP Ignatius Shixwameni referred to, as a disservice to democracy.
“The behaviour of many MPs, combined with the Speaker’s lack of authority, meant that the appointments of the electoral commissioners and the ACC principals could not be properly debated,” he said. He added that the lack of political consensus over the ECN appointments does not bode well for future elections as the new commissioners and chairperson appear to be distrusted before they have even started.
“It was disappointing that the opposition failed to make any substantive points over these crucial appointments for both the ECN and the ACC, and instead chose to focus on procedural issues,” he noted. On his part, political analyst and senior lecturer in the department of communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), Admire Mare, said the reappointment of Noa and his deputy show that Geingob has confidence in the incumbent, although civil society organisations have shown that Noa has done little to deal with corruption. “It remains to be seen whether Mr Noa has new ideas to fight corruption. He has been reappointed at a time when the Fishrot scandal is still fresh in the minds of Namibians, and hence must do more to regain public trust,” he added.
Noa, on his part, thanked Geingob for the trust he had shown in them for another five years. “Equally, we thank the National Assembly for their decision to reappoint us to lead the ACC for the next five years,” he told New Era yesterday. “In the same spirit, we respect Honourable members of the National Assembly and members of the public, including the media, who expressed diverse opinions regarding our reappointment. In a Namibian society built on principles of democracy which our forefathers fought for, we expect politicians and members of the public to hold different opinions on national matters. That demonstrates that our democracy, particularly freedom of expression, is alive and functional.”
According to Noa, corruption is a common enemy, and all energy should be channelled towards combating anti-graft activities. “It will never be the sole business for the director general and the deputy, whoever they might be. Our collective drive against corruption will make Namibia a prosperous, proud nation. Namibia is our only home. We commit ourselves to continue working together with all national leaders, all members of Parliament, and all citizens in implementing national anti-corruption programmes because our success depends on national concerted actions. We shall reach out to all of you, our national leaders, for consultations, regardless of your present opinion on our reappointment, because we need your wisdom on how best Namibia can get herself free of corruption. In the process, we shall always have regard to the fact that the ACC is established by the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia and the Anti-Corruption Act No.8 of 2003, passed by Parliament. The Act determines the powers and limits of the ACC. Therefore, our legal mandate in terms of enforcing the law is not negotiable.”