Ithana Dismisses NSHR Reports

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Minister of Justice and the Attorney General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana has rejected reports by the National Society for Human Rights (NSHR) that she threatened to dismiss, imprison or impeach President Hifikepunye Pohamba. During the weekend, head of NSHR Phil Ya Nangolo issued a statement saying that through his organisation’s vigorous monitoring of the current shebeen impasse, NSHR learnt that the Attorney General at a meeting held last Thursday with leaders of the Namibia Shebeen Association (NASA) warned that if Pohamba grants a moratorium on the implementation of the current Liquor Act, he will be impeached, dismissed or imprisoned. According to Ithana, some shebeen owners have the impression that the president has powers to suspend the operation of a law under other circumstance than public emergency, state of national defence or marital law listed under Article 26. She was speaking in parliament yesterday afternoon. While acknowledging that the recent demonstrations are part and parcel of a democratic culture and do not warrant the suspension of the operation, the minister added that the insistence by certain NASA leaders that Pohamba has the powers to declare a moratorium on the operations of the law would be tantamount to the president acting unconstitutionally. That would, Ithana said, attract the attention of the Attorney General under Article 87 (c), which is “to take all actions necessary for the protection and upholding of the Constitution” and if necessary institute the proceedings for the impeachment of the president. As the president of the country, Pohamba is bound to protect the constitution and laws of Namibia and the insistence of those certain NASA leaders that the president suspend a law would make him susceptible to action in terms of Article 29 (2) of the Namibian constitution, “The process of impeachment may be initiated indeed by the Attorney General acting in the protection of the Constitution and the laws of the country,” she said. She regards Ya Nangolo’s allegations as serious and advised that he would have sought verification from the person to whom they are attributed. “Needless to mention, Ya Nangolo seems to have abandoned his constituency which he ever claims to protect by advocating for the suspension of a law that seeks to regulate the sale of liquor to our society,” she said. Ithana declared she has no fear of exercising her functions as Attorney General, which includes being the principal legal advisor to the president and the government in terms of Article 87 (b) of the Namibian Constitution. In cases where the President fails to take her advice, she said, Cabinet has a right to be informed and intervene should that be deemed necessary. She reminded the public that all Namibians are not exempt from adhering to the law, as laws are there to instil order, maintain peace and guide society. Meanwhile, Minister of Trade and Industry Immanuel Ngatjizeko yesterday informed parliament that the Technical Committee has completed its work with regard to the Liquor Act and has initiated measures to gazette new regulations that will facilitate issuance of licences. The minister condemned statements made by some members of the public that the Liquor Act was bulldozed in the National Assembly without any public hearing. He said apart from workshops and seminars organized by his ministry countrywide, consultations were done by the committee on Economics. Upon completion of consultations, the public spoke out strongly on the negative social effects of alcohol and the need to curtail its availability and accessibility to the vulnerable majority who tend to abuse it. According to the minister, the Liquor Act looked at the need to balance the promotion of small businesses in respect to the sale of alcohol as a business activity, with the compelling need to protect society from a myriad of social evils. “I do not wish to and I refuse to be part of a legislation that will be turning a blind eye to the negative social development,” the minister stated. While the ministry was involved in intense discussions with shebeen operators and other relevant stakeholders on the implementation of the Act, Ngatjizeko said NASA was not helpful in educating its members on the Act and encouraging them to legalize their operations through licensing. While the past few weeks have witnessed NASA’s demands that the Act be suspended due to its onerous requirements, a misconception has been created by the association to its members that all applicants are entitled to licences even when they fail to meet the requirements of the law. If anything, the main source of the current problem could be found in the Town Planning Ordinance, 1954 (Ordinance 18 of 1954) regulating how urban areas may be zoned into “residential” and “business” areas. “The law appears to me to be the main hurdle that prevents many shebeen owners from obtaining certificates of fitness,” Ngatjizeko said.

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