Venaani slams ‘constitutional overhaul’

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DTA leader McHenry Venaani (left), here meeting with President Hifikepunye Pohamba, is vehemently opposed to some proposed constitutional changes.

By Toivo Ndjebela

DTA President McHenry Venaani says his party will fight tooth and nail what he termed the covert overhauling of the country’s constitution under the pretext of making amendments via the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC).

Venaani revealed this during recent consultations with Prime Minister Hage Geingob. The pair spent hours disagreeing on many of the proposed constitutional amendments, including a new requirement that any party can only be represented in parliament if it has acquired five percent of the total national vote.

Venaani, formerly a member of parliament before he lost his seat following his party’s dismal performance in the 2009 elections, challenged the LRDC to come clean on why it proposed making sweeping constitutional changes four months before the country holds national elections.

The young politician was however brave in putting politics aside, at least for a minute, to confirm that Geingob had agreed during their consultation that the mooted five percent threshold for parties will be shelved.

“The prime minister consulted us and he and I argued for about three hours over the issue of setting a minimum percentage requirement for a party to make it into parliament,” the DTA leader told New Era yesterday.

“With this kind of requirement people like Kosie Pretorius of MAG wouldn’t have put a foot in parliament, but he is a man of valuable ideas that he shared in parliament to the country’s benefit.

“Eventually the prime minister agreed that setting a threshold was a slap in the face of the proportional representation principle. Geingob has given us assurance that this proposed amendment will be scrapped.”

If this proposal was in place in 2009, DTA – which garnered 3.13 percent in that year’s election – would not have made it to parliament. Currently, the DTA holds two seats in the National Assembly.

“We are not worried about getting five percent in the upcoming election because DTA will surely exceed that. We are simply opposed to the principle,” Venaani said, adding that the country’s current political system contradicts the proposed amendment.

The DTA is also opposed to attempts to create a vice-president position in  government structures, saying having both a vice-president and prime minister is not prudent.

“The SADC regional protocol is against the principle of having both a prime minister and vice-president in the same government. That will heavy-load government structures.”

The current proposal states that the vice-president will serve at the pleasure of the president. Venaani says if the prime minister is replaced by a vice-president, that too will pose some danger.

“It is not prudent to have both these positions in a government. But remember that the prime minister is the head of government business and if you choose to do away with that position and keep a vice-president, it’s still a danger because the proposed amendment says the vice-president will serve at the pleasure of the president.

“How will you lead government business successfully if you are limited to serving only at the president’s pleasure?” the DTA president wanted to know.

He also castigated plans to increase the National Assembly seats from the current 72 to 100. 

“The real reason for this proposal is to accommodate Swapo’s 50/50 gender quota policy,” Venaani charged.

“This too is not prudent because it will simply increase government’s wage bill. We are also opposed to the idea of curbing the executive powers of regional councils.

“You cannot talk about decentralisation on the one hand, and, on the other hand, curb the powers of people that are supposed to drive the decentralisation process.” 

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