Campaign rush leaves National Assembly empty

DESERTED … Numerous benches in the National Assembly were unfilled as lawmakers did not make it to the session. Photo: Shelleygan Petersen.

The National Assembly was four lawmakers short of meeting the 29-member quorum leading to the adjournment of the sitting yesterday.

Speaker Peter Katjavivi suspended the almost empty house, describing it as unusual.

“This is so unusual … we need four more [to reach a quorum]. Given that, I have to adjourn the house,” he said.

Over the last three days, more seats have became empty as members of parliament (MPs) have been absent amid election campaigns countrywide.

The National Assembly resumed on Tuesday after a six-week recess which started in late April.

To call the lawmakers to take their seats yesterday, the National Assembly siren went off more than four times, but to no avail.

MPs were set to discuss the long-awaited divorce bill which sets out to make the process more affordable and shorter.

This is in addition to the discussion on reports tabled and the motion on the underutilisation of Namibia’s perennial rivers.

Peter Katjavivi

Some of those present include defence minister Frans Kapofi, three Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) members (Charmaine Tjirare, Max Katjimune and Winnie Moongo), Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters’ Kalimbo Iipumbu and his leader, Epafras Mukwiilongo, as well as lawmaker Dudu Murorua.

Katjimune shifted the blame to the ministers.

“It is very disappointing, because every Thursday ministers have to come to account and answer questions, it happens that every Thursday they are absent from parliament” he said after the National Assembly was adjourned.

Swapo chief whip Hamunyera Hambyuka said the absenteeism of his party members sends a bad message to Namibians.

“The majority of my colleagues were not in the chamber today. I know some have filed for leave of absence, they are on official missions.

But there are those who absconded not to attend parliament, which is their national duties and responsibilities,” Hambyuka said.

LPM chief whip Utaara Mootu says they are busy with consultations.

Mootu says their absence is not deliberate.

Swapo lawmaker Tjekero Tweya described the emptiness as a pity.

Phillip Katamelo

Minister of information and communication technology Emma Theofilus washed her hands, saying she cannot explain why her fellow ministers did not attend parliament.

“Kindly refer all questions to the National Assembly as I am not the spokesperson of parliament except as an ordinary member of the august house,” she told The Namibian yesterday.

Political analyst Rui Tyitende says the National Assembly has always been an institution that MPs do not take seriously, as they are aware there will be no repercussions if they stay away from attending sessions.

“A good number of MPs are dead horses and salary collectors that have nothing to contribute towards the legislative agenda,” he says.

He says it is high time that policies be developed to cut the salaries of MP’s who are absent without a valid reason or prior notification.

“Lawmaking is a serious matter that should not be taken for granted. This behaviour is a slap in the face of the electorate that expects their MP’s to represent them on matters of national importance,” he says.

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