A State of the Nation Address is a momentous occasion in any democracy. The constitution states that the President must attend parliament to address parliament (and the nation) on the state of the nation and on the future policies of the government. He or she must also report on the policies of the previous year and avail himself to questions. (Article 32 (2) Namibian Constitution)
It is clear from the above-cited text that the President is obliged to attend parliament once a year. The other obligation is that of him answering questions put during such attendance. This is a constitutional obligation, dictated by the supreme law of the land.
Rule 118 (b) of the Rules of the House places a duty on the speaker to ensure that any address directed to the President is in a respectful manner and devoid of any disrespect. Interjecting right from the beginning, while the President is carrying out his constitutional obligation and pointing a finger is the opposite of respectful manner and remarks. (Rule 118 (c). Yes, a finger was also pointed from where the President stood. However, a reasonable person would conclude it to have been an attempt at emphasising his displeasure in re his welcome. (‘without taking the matter any further’)
The speaker should be encouraged to draw the attention of the honourable members to the provisions couched in Chapter XI of the Rules, more specifically the general restrictions as listed in Rule 116. Deducing from the text explicitly using the word President throughout, and if behad is to Rule 118 (a) read with Rule 118 (c), the speaker should ensure that the President is addressed by his title throughout his time in parliament.
It is a trite fact that the seventh parliament of our republic has a considerable number of legal practitioners and/or holders of a degree in law. In the event of a meeting of minds with regards the a priori, than the expectation on that group of honourable learned people, belonging to an honourable profession, is to exert a positive influence in this august house. Legal practitioners, practising and non-practising, ought to concern themselves with issues affecting the nation and the level of debate within the said house. This group also ought to easily invoke and exploit the internal remedies created within the rules as a way of tackling personal differences. Parliament, through its rules, is the institution best placed to solve issues between and amongst honourable members. This will show the appreciation of the second organ of our republic in re the congested court roll of the third organ. Outsourcing the resolution of trivial matters is nothing but the abandonment of responsibilities by the honourable members.
Each party represented in parliament ought to have a chief whip to survey the terrain and tactically prepare for any outcome of an encounter with an opposing agenda. Thus, Swapo party’s chief whip had the responsibility to ensure that the members of his party were at hand to support the President in carrying out the party’s agenda of accounting to the Namibian people and projecting its vision for the country as espoused in its manifesto upon which it sought and won the mandate to govern. As events shamefully unfolded, the whole caucus failed to protect and shield its leader against a street fight. The chief whip could have used a different venue for the head of state, under the pretext of Covid-19 to protect him against self and those beside him. A President of a nation should enjoy the respect of all citizens especially in that august house and ‘equally so’ feel its protective shield, just as Hage Geingob shielded then President Sam Nujoma together with others.
Meritocracy should yield the ability to steer your commander-in-chief away from a street fight, and not stand on the pavement for fear of collateral damage. The astute forecast indicates that the political environment will continue to generate severe conditions for governance. A complete leader is the one who possess both administrative and political shrewdness. The technocrats should realise their appointments in the end are political. If they stand idle now, what will they do when you are no longer in power? (obiter dicta)
The final term calls for a supervisory approach from the President and for him to have an eagle eye on those projects that will aid his legacy. A complete legacy is one that includes the unity of the party that deployed the siting president. The President should ensure that his vision remains the primal focus for the whole party caucus and avoid distraction by the rumours of succession and reactionary camps.
*Joshua Razikua Kaumbi is a former speaker of the Student Parliament at Unam and is an admitted legal practitioner of the High Court of Namibia.
*Kadhila Amoomo is an admitted legal practitioner of the High Court of Namibia.
The views reflected herein are their own.