Namibians Protest Constitutional Changes

A SMALL group of people including representatives of civil society organisations and opposition parties held a peaceful demonstration against the proposed changes to the Namibian Constitution at Parliament Gardens today.

Demonstrators held posters aloft with messages such as, “touch the Constitution touch the rock, the people’s vote counts” and “we will take legal action if they pass the amendment”

The crowd was closely watched by a large number of armed police officers.

The various non-governmental organisations earlier 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 peaceful demonstration is to ask the National Assembly to halt the process to allow for the citizens to be consulted.

Law Reform and Development Commission chairperson Sacky Shanghala received tongue lashings from an agitated audience at a public debate organised by the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung Foundation at the Goethe Centre over the proposed Constitutional Amendment Bill last week.

Shanghala was grilled by an audience made up of political activists, academics, law students and civil society representatives on Thursday evening.

Since being tabled in parliament by Attorney General Albert Kawana, the amendments triggered public outcry and debate, with Shanghala constantly having to defend government’s position.

The audience demanded to know why the Bill was being rushed just four months before the national elections. Questions were also raised as to whether there was public consent, while a law student cautioned that government should not forget to keep the interests of the youth in mind.

Those gathered were angry with the politicians who propose the amendments as they thought Namibia has more pressing challenges, including land redistribution, a housing crisis, poor health care and massive unemployment.

Attorney General and Presidential Affairs Minister Albert Kawana tabled and motivated wide ranging Constitutional Amendment Bill at the end of July after earlier denying that such amendments even existed.

The list of the proposed changes to the Constitution in the notice given by Kawana include increasing the number of presidential appointments in the National Assembly to eight from six and to give them voting rights the creation of the vice presidency post and making the post of the deputy prime minister optional.

The proposals also seek to make provision for Namibia Central Intelligence Service in the Constitution and provide for the President to appoint the head of intelligence agency who will also become a part of the Security Commission.

Other changes are: limiting the National Council’s review powers in relation to bills, providing for the levying of taxes and the national budget. The size of the National Council quorum requirements will also be considered for change.

Source : The Namibian