MPs Squabble Over Signature

The National Assembly discussion on a petition from a taxi union was temporarily put aside on Wednesday as members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs wrangled over the signature on a report on the taxi industry, which was under debate in the House. It started with the leader of the Congress of Democrats, Ben Ulenga, denying having signed the report, inferring that his signature in the report was forged because he did not attend committee meetings that produced the report. Ulenga received support from fellow committee member, DTA parliamentarian Phillemon Moongo, who said he was forced to sign the document by the standing committee without reviewing its content. The standing committee’s chairperson Evelyn !Nawases-Tayele had tabled the report on public hearings on the petition of the Namibia Transport and Taxi Union (NNTU). The union had petitioned the National Assembly on high traffic fines, and the matter was referred to the standing committee. “With all due respect to my chairperson I did not sit in a single meeting. I saw this document for the first time in parliament and I happen to see my signature, I did not sign this report,” said an adamant Ulenga.

However, !Nawases-Tayele was adamant that Ulenga signed the document and accused the CoD president of “double standards” and “shedding crocodile tears”, adding: “When we are in the committee meetings you agree with the contents of the report but when we sit in parliament you criticise the report and plead ignorance.”

The NNTU, which represents taxi drivers, blamed “inadequate infrastructure” for the reason taxi drivers violate traffic rules. Members of the NNTU have staged several strikes since last year to express discontent over traffic fines and reasoned that even if they were paid decent wages, the rate at which they receive traffic fines every day would not accord them “social justice”. Moongo said he knew he was “one of the signatories, but to me signing does not mean I support the report. They [the standing committee] were saying the report needs to be tabled urgently and therefore I had to sign.”

“It is unfortunate that the public, through the House heard that a member did not attend to important activities taking place in the committee and now he comes to this House crying crocodile tears,” said an irked !Nawases-Tayele, maintaining that Ulenga signed the report knowingly and was in no way coerced to sign it, thus his signature was not forged or copied.

“I must have been tricked,” shouted Ulenga.

!Nawases-Tayele insisted that the National Assembly Speaker, Theo-Ben Gurirab, instruct Ulenga to apologise and withdraw the statement for trying to question the credibility of the committee and for bringing the committee members and staff in disrepute.

As the discussions went on Ulenga eventually acknowledged signing the report, but stated that he did not know what he was signing for.

The House in due course resumed discussing the petition with Ulenga saying the taxi industry in Namibia is over-regulated. “The high fines are fine, but the fines must not only target taxis,” said Ulenga, adding that taxi drivers are struggling to make a living.

Moongo called for roads in the city to accommodate cyclists to ease the burden on the public transport system. “Our nation is poor, therefore the traffic fines must be reasonable. You are copying things from the colonialists because you do not want bicycles to be ridden in Windhoek,” said Moongo.

The report was adopted on Wednesday.

Source : New Era