Parliament files for ‘divorce’

The National Assembly’s new five-year plan has called for the parliament to operate independently from other state organs, including the executive, and has blamed, among others, the below-standard performance of the parliament on the Cabinet determining National Assembly (NA) budgets.

The new strategic plan for 2023 to 2027, launched by speaker Peter Katjavivi yesterday, also says a lack of political will to make the parliament fully autonomous was another reason for below-standard performance.

In fact, the Cabinet continuing to make decisions on the NA executing its mandate, as well as budget cuts were listed as threats to implementing the new strategic plan.

Also mentioned was “no clear separation of powers between the organs of the state and a lack of administrative independence”.
The NA’s plan highlighted the influence of other state organs that may directly or indirectly influence its implementation.

SEPARATION NEEDED

Popular Democratic Movement chief whip Elma Dienda says it is no secret that the executive overrules the parliament.

“What an analysis indicated on one of the threats regarding the separation of powers, was exactly why I tabled a motion on the separation of powers in the parliament,” she says.

Dienda tabled a motion to debate the impact of the executive on the separation of powers in February 2022.

“His (Katjavivi) party, the ruling party, did not agree on my motion. How can one be a judge, jury, referee and player at the same time?” Dienda asks.

She says there is no separation of powers in Namibia, while the executive are still members of parliament.

“We cannot talk about a three-legged pot if some members represent two parts of that pot,” she says.

Rui Tyitende

Political analyst Rui Tyitende says “in serious democracies, legislatures act as checks on the freedom of manoeuvre of the state executive”.

“They are essential in upholding constitutions, because they can publicise attempts to subvert them, and they can support the judiciary if the executive attempts to undermine or suspend them,” he says.

In its current form, Tyitende says, the National Assembly has de jure power, but little de facto power.

“Unfortunately, our National Assembly, on account of the constitutional design, has been reduced to a ‘talking shop’ that do little more than rubber-stamp decisions that have effectively been made elsewhere [Cabinet],” he says.

“We do not have a separation of powers, but a concentration of powers as the executive [Cabinet], together with their fellow party members, dominate proceedings and are accountable [only] to themselves.

“For real accountability and the doctrine of checks and balances to occur, the Constitution needs to be amended to rid our political system from the ‘tyranny of the majority’, including doing away with the National Council.

“It is a wasteful institution that has gobbled up public funds without making a meaningful contribution to material conditions of the populace,” Tyitende says.

Swapo parliamentarian Patience Masua believes the absence of a distinct separation of powers raises valid concerns for the functionality of the political system.

“A clear separation of powers is fundamental to the principles of democracy, particularly in preventing any one branch of the government from becoming too powerful,” she says.

Masua says without a robust separation of powers, there is a potential risk of power consolidation within a single branch.

“It obviously may lead to a lack of accountability, as the mechanisms to scrutinise and balance the exercise of power become weakened.

“It is a very valid weakness that calls for constitutional reform or perhaps legislative measures that reinforce the separation of powers. This, naturally, is to protect our democracy,” she says.

IMPRUDENT USE OF STATE MONEY

Katjavivi also spoke out against the imprudent use of state money by the executive branch.

The speaker said parliamentary standing committee visits to the regions and specific offices, ministries and agencies have uncovered failed service delivery.

“I am not going to mention the region. For some reason we had to go out and visit the bathroom and discovered there was a queue there in this huge building. And I asked how they could build only one toilet in this building.

“Then I asked who was responsible for planning this particular facility.

These are some of the things that are done, and it’s discovered by the parliamentary committee and representation of the executive,” he said.

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