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PDM members square off in court

2020-06-26  Maria Amakali

PDM members square off in court

The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has defended the Electoral Commission of Namibia’s decision to amend its party list of officials that were sworn in as members of the National Assembly in March this year. 
The party was initially against the amendment of their list and had even threatened ECN with legal action. However, it changed its tune in the electoral court where two disgruntled party members are suing it by stating that the ECN indeed acted within the law. 
In October 2019, ECN issued a directive that all politicians employed in the public service, as well as those serving in local and regional authorities, should resign from their jobs upon being nominated as National Assembly candidates. 

Initially, the party submitted to ECN a list consisting of leader McHenry Venaani, Jennifer van den Heever, Ricky Vries, Vipua Muharukua, Nico Smit, Jan van Wyk, Elma Dienda, Esme !Aebes, Johannes Martin, Kazeongere Tjeundo, Inna Hengari, Geoffrey Mwilima, Elizabeth Celeste Becker, Sydney Ndumba, Winnie Moongo and Pieter Mostert at number 16. However, following the October directive, ECN automatically removed some PDM members [who had refused to resign] from the party list in order to comply with the Electoral Act. 
ECN adjusted the party’s list of candidates for the National Assembly election, which was finally gazetted. The list which was gazetted after the removal of some members was in the following order: Venaani, followed by Van den Heever, Vries, Muharukua, Smit, Van Wyk, Dienda, Hengari, Becker, Moongo, Frans Bertolini, Charmaine Tjirare, Yvette Araes, Maximilliant Katjimune, Raymond Diergaardt and Venaani’s father, Mike Venaani at number 16. 

However, according to court documents PDM forwarded a different list of names to the electoral commission, adding !Aebes, Martin, Tjeundo, Mwilima, Ndumbah and Mostert. 
PDM’s lawyer Ramon Maasdorp argued that the party list of candidates was not necessarily the list of people who would go to the National Assembly. 

“The legislation, read with paragraph (4) of Schedule 4, informs us that irrespective of the names on the list, political parties still have the discretion to choose whom they want to represent the party and fill any seats that the party might win in the general election,” explained Maasdorp. 

He argued that the applicants failed to resign from their respective employments as required by law. The list of people that were sworn in on 20 March were chosen by the party in order for the party to ensure that it had national representation, regional diversity, experience and competency, said Maasdorp. 
“If the applicants were aggrieved by the party’s decision, they should have followed the available remedies within the party before approaching the court,” reasoned Maasdorp. 

The applicants are seeking an order to have the current MPs, including !Aebes, Martin, Tjeundo, Mwilima, Timotheus Sydney Shihumbu and Mostert recalled from parliament. Furthermore, the applicants seek an order declaring that the swearing in of the said MPs was unlawful and the court should order ECN to declare the applicants as the duly elected MPs. 
The applicants’ lawyer Norman Tjombe argued that the applicants were never formally informed of the party’s or ECN’s decision to remove their names from the party list. They allegedly only came to know about it on social media. 

Tjombe argued that PDM and ECN have wrongly interpreted the law.  “If the interpretation offered by the ECN and PDM is correct, it would then not matter that the list compiled for the previous general election must be used, because a political party can simply appoint whoever person they deem fit, who may never have been on any list,” explained Tjombe. 
Tjombe further argued that only when the list is exhausted can a political party then submit a name of any other person (who must however be a member of that political party). The court is set to give a ruling in the matter on 13 July. 
Deputy Judge President Hosea Angula alongside judges Shafimana Ueitele and Thomas Masuku presided. 
Court battle… PDM supporters at a rally. 
Photo: Emmency Nuukala

2020-06-26  Maria Amakali

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