Vice-Presidency Vital for Inclusivity – Kawana

Government yesterday conceded that introducing a vice-president’s position, while maintaining the prime minister’s post, will make the executive top-heavy, but maintained this is the price the country has to pay for inclusivity and nation-building.

“We are still building and reconciling this nation of ours. Positions like the vice-president allow for those leading us, particularly the president, to be able to appoint persons from the diverse spectrum of the people of Namibia, so as to foster nation building,” Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana said yesterday in parliament.

Kawana made the remarks in motivation of the Namibian Constitution Third Amendment Bill of 2014, which the nation has eagerly awaited, amidst confusion and claims of attempting to give more power to State House.

esting that persons be simply appointed to positions based on Bantustan considerations. That is not the objective,” Kawana said. “I think this reality is what propelled honourable members from the opposition to concur with us that we still need to heal this nation in terms of racial and tribal divisions. So that Namibians can be anywhere in the world, and not see themselves first as Namas, Subiyas, Owambos, Kavangos, Damaras, Basters or Himbas, but as Namibians.”

Kawana added: “An expensive way to build inclusivity, however, nation building is not cheap. That is why the South Africans had two vice-presidents at a point in time. Why? Because the Afrikaners were ready to be led by Constand Viljoen to burn that country to the ground if need be. Each country has its own circumstances, and we are still building and reconciling this nation.”

Kawana said these radical constitutional amendments emanate from the process of the Electoral Law Reform Project (ELRP), which was conducted by the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) since 30 August, 2011.

Further amendments, especially those concerning elections in Namibia, were necessitated by the High Court ruling in the electoral challenge of 2009 when the opposition, led by the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) challenged the outcome of that year’s general elections.

In its ruling, the High Court urged that the legislature make the necessary amendments to consolidate laws guiding the execution of elections in the country.

Kawana confirms that the new system will still retain the prime minister as the leader of government business in parliament and the coordinator of the work of Cabinet as head of administration. “The president remains head of state and head of government. The president and the vice-president will not attend parliament, except as provided for under the Namibian Constitution, once per annum,” he said.

“The vice-president’s functions will be to deputise, aise and assist the president in the execution of his or her functions, which are out of the parliament. The prime minister will be a member of the National Assembly.”

With this wave of changes, the National Assembly would be composed of 104 voting members. It is proposed that the National Council representation be increased from two members from every region, to three.

“As Honourable Members are aware, we started off with 95 constituencies across the country. We now have 121 constituencies. Our proposal seeks to keep pace with the increase in the population,” Kawana said. It is also proposed that there be a post of a deputy-chief justice, who shall be the head of the High Court, and the designations deputy chief justice and judge-president be utilised interchangeably.

“In our proposal, the heads of courts will be the chief justice and deputy chief justice respectively,” Kawana explained. “This proposal will regularise the already existing situation where the judge-president already sits in judgment in Supreme Court matters. The anomaly however is that as a head of court, he cannot preside in the Supreme Court when an ordinary judge of the Supreme Court is on the bench, because a judge of the Supreme Court will be ranked higher than the judge-president.”

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) is also to be reformed, if the proposals sail through parliament.

Political parties suggested that the ECN should become a constitutional body so as to enhance its integrity and independence.

“We have been convinced by this suggestion, and we provide that the president appoints the members of the Electoral Commission of Namibia, including the chairperson, with the approval of the National Assembly.”

There were also concerns that the new changes will strip regional governors and regional councils of their power, with many arguing this will affect the process of decentralisation.

“I am concerned Mister Speaker, that decentralisation is sometimes mistaken for federalism. Namibia is a unitary state. Regions are administrative, not executive in nature. Hence, all that is being done is that the president is appointing his or her representative in the regions.

“The situation where a governor is an elected councillor always amounted to the neglect of the particular constituency for which that governor was elected, or the neglect of the office of the governor.

“Nothing in this proposal takes away from the functions and roles of the chairperson of the Management Committee of the Regional Council as an elected office-bearer,” said Kawana.

Source : New Era