Lawyers representing National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi in a case where Landless People’s Movement (LPM) leaders are challenging his decision to ban them indefinitely from the August House claimed the High Court is not empowered to make a ruling on the matter, while internal processes are yet to be concluded.
Sisa Namandje, during oral arguments, indicated Katjavivi has referred the matter to the parliament’s privileges committee and they will discuss the matter, including making a finding whether LPM’s Bernadus Swartbooi and Henny Seibeb’s conduct on 15 April was justifiable.
“It would also be able to recommend to the House the setting aside of the applicants’ (Swartbooi and Seibeb) temporary withdrawal. On this basis alone, the court is entitled to step back and allow the internal process to unfold to finality,” argued Namandje.
It was Namandje’s argument that the matter falls within the internal affairs of the National Assembly. The privileges committee was scheduled to deliberate on the matter yesterday.
Swartbooi and Seibeb’s lawyer Gerson Narib argued the court does have jurisdiction to decide on the matter, as Katjavivi has decided on the matter and it was communicated to the two parliamentarians in a letter.
“The decision sought to be impugned is the decision communicated by the letter, dated 19 April 2021. There is no investigations or decision outstanding in regard to that decision. It is, thus, ripe for challenge,” argued Narib.
It was his argument that the approach Katjavivi took to ban the parliamentarians for an undetermined amount of time was highly unreasonable and not supported by any legislature.
Swartbooi and Seibeb approached the High Court on an urgent basis, maintaining that Katjavivi’s decision communicated to them on 19 April is unconstitutional and should be set aside, claiming that Rule 112 only allows for members to be suspended for grossly improper misconduct for a period of 7, 14 and 21 days.
They are further seeking an order that would interdict Katjavivi from interfering with their rights as elected members of the National Assembly, contributing to debates or attending to their offices that are situated at the parliament building.
In an affidavit, Swartbooi indicates they are currently missing out on the ongoing debate on the National Appropriation Bill. Thus, the appropriate remedy would be for them to be allowed back into the chamber.
In his response, Katjavivi claims the two MPs, through their conduct on 15 April and other occasions, have threatened other members of parliament with violence, used every abusive and unacceptable language, and have made themselves guilty of criminal offences under the Powers, Privileges and Immunities of Parliament Act.
He also said he has been approached by various members of parliament, who seriously fear for their safety. He said he is planning on filing a counter application again at the two members that their actions have been in bridge of Article 60(1)(a) of the Namibian Constitution.
He says his action to ban them from parliament is wholly lawful. Judge Kobus Miller is scheduled to give a ruling in the matter on 6 May.