Cabinet Discusses Constitutional Amendment

CABINET has started moves to amend the Constitution to increasse the number of seats to 100 in the National Assembly.

The Namibian has learnt that the issue was discussed at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, and that a Bill is being prepared.

Sources said the meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Hage Geingob, because President Hifikepunye Pohamba is out of the country on official business.

It is however not clear why a meeting to discuss such an important amendment could not wait for the President, who is just away for three days.

Secretary to Cabinet Frans Kapofi yesterday referred questions to information minister Joel Kaapanda who could not be reached for comment.

The meeting took place amid reports that Swapo has already sent out a directive to regional executives on how the election for parliamentary candidates will take place at next month’s electoral college.

The directive says only 72 candidates will be elected and that the zebra-list with the secretary general (male) on top and his deputy (female) will be applied. They will be followed by the top 10 men interwoven with the top 10 women.

Thereafter, the 10 nominated by the Swapo president will share the next 20 positions in zebra-style with those who follow on the electoral college list.

The Namibian, on Monday, reported that Pohamba had to concede to the possibility of amending the Constitution, to appease those opposed to the implementation of the 5050 zebra style gender representation.

Party sources say there was a heated debate at a Swapo central committee meeting at the weekend on how to implement the party list for those who will go to parliament, and that President Pohamba had overruled any resistance to the implementation of the 5050 gender representation.

The sources said there was opposition to the 5050 principle across the board with many, especially men, scared of being left out. Some allegedly questioned how the new system will make sure that not only elite women get a chance but that those from rural areas and the youth are accommodated as well.

The Namibian also reported that the Law Reform and Development Commission has already drafted a bill. The Bill proposes that two additional members per region should be directly elected to the National Assembly, which would mean there would be 28 additional members from the 14 regions.

The 28 regional councillors, if the proposal is adopted, will go directly to the National Assembly, thereby increasing the number to 100 from the current 72.

The recommendation also states that the voters in the regions can take the directly elected leaders to task if they do not perform according to their expectations. Some would not be re-elected if they fail to perform.

This proposal, if adopted, according to the report, would strengthen the National Assembly standing committees since the current rules prohibit ministers to be members of standing committees.

The report further says there were questions on whether, once the proposals to have 28 more MPs are adopted, the National Council would cease to exist.

The National Council comprises 26 members who were directly elected from the 13 regions before Kavango was split into two regions. The Council could also be expanded by two members to represent the 14 regions in the next elections.

Sceptics have however pointed out that the current drive is aimed at saving a section of the Swapo leadership whose positions are threatened by the implementation of the 5050 gender quota.

Source : The Namibian