Civil Society Marches Against Constitutional Changes

CIVIL society organisations will hold a peaceful demonstration against the proposed changes to the Namibian Constitution today.

The various non-governmental organisations said they just want the people to get a chance to understand and decide whether the wide-ranging changes to the country’s supreme law are in the nation’s interest.

The Namibia Non-governmental Organisation Forum (Nangof) Trust chairperson, Sandi Tjaronda, said the civil society organisations want to see citizens participate in a genuinely participatory process, adding that the country would have only found out about the changes to the constitution the day it was tabled in parliament had it not been for the media, who relied on leaked information.

Tjaronda said the peaceful demonstration is to ask the National Assembly to halt the process to allow for the citizens to be consulted.

In a show of strength and solidarity, NamRights’ head Phil ya Nangoloh said the proposed changes are “unconstitutional and not in the public interest.” He also added that the proposed changes are going to the heart of separation of powers and checks and balances in the country.

Nangof Trust’s deputy chairperson Vida de Voss emphasised that the demonstration is intended to make Namibians realise that they too have rights and powers equal even to those of the President by virtue of them being citizens.

The peaceful demonstration will be held today during lunch time at parliament, while Prime Minister Hage Geingob, in conjunction with the National Youth Council, will be holding a public discussion on the constitutional changes in Katutura tomorrow night.

This is also a move that has been frowned upon by the civil society, which is of the opinion that the Prime Minister should not be having public consultation, while the Bill is being debated in parliament. The public consultations should come first before the Bill is tabled.

Congress of Democrats (CoD) president Ben Ulenga also joined the fray, and yesterday denounced the proposed Constitutional changes.

Ulenga, at a media briefing, said the changes are brought about to serve Swapo’s interest and not that of the public and that they cannot be smuggled through the back door as it is being done.

“These amendments were made to clean up Swapo’s mess of wanting to have an equal gender quota in parliament without removing any of their male counterparts. It’s an opportunistic approach by the party to use the country’s fundamental law to solve their own mess. They should amend their own party constitution to include more women and not the country’s,” said Ulenga.

He further said that the amendments were made without proper consultations of the parties, “We were not properly consulted. I could not make it since I had to travel and the invitation came late. Initially, people were just informed of the ruling party’s proposals and were not requested for our contribution. ”

He said it was unfair that the Constitutional amendments were made by one individual, Law Reform and Development Commission’s Sackey Shangala, while they are of concern to the entire public.

“Who is he to change the Constitution of the country alone?” Ulenga questioned, adding that he considered this an abuse of power.

Ulenga said there is no need for a position of a vice president, “For 24 years we have lived without that position, why now all of a sudden? What contribution will that position bring to the country, apart from the fact that it simply makes the system overly heavy.”

In reference to the parliamentary seats that will be increased from 74 to 104, Ulenga said the whole initiative was unfair and ‘pure fraud.’

Ulenga said politicians must be elected into parliament and not appointed while pointing out that for opposition political parties to get a seat in parliament it must have about 10 000 votes.

“If the president gets to appoint eight people into parliament that means, he will have the power of 80 000 votes in his hands and it is not necessary,” said Ulenga.

According to him, there was a standing committee that proposed a Constitutional Committee which will propose some amendments and they will then be circulated amongst the public for debate.

Source : The Namibian