WINDHOEK – In an attempt to prevent parliament from degenerating into a circus and use time sparingly, National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi has warned lawmakers against misconduct and raising irrelevant points of order.
Katjavivi, who assumed duty as speaker on Friday, made the remarks while opening the induction workshop for the new members of parliament yesterday.
Lawmakers have in recent years come under attack for making interjections merely in order to disturb the business of the house instead of making meaningful contributions while some have seemingly taken the parliament platform as a boxing ring.
Almost a year ago, Swapo MPs Kazenambo Kazenambo and Petrus Iilonga clashed in the National Assembly over the perceived way in which liberation struggle icon Andimba Toivo ya Toivo was being treated.
Kazenambo told Iilonga to “go to hell” in a session that was airing live on television but parliament did not take any disciplinary actions against any of the two.
Katjavivi informed the lawmakers that they would have to adhere to the amended Code of Conduct of the National Assembly as well as the revised standing rules and orders, which he expects to be adopted very soon.
“Great concern in these rules and orders is that of members rising, raising irrelevant points of order. This is for the most part a waste of time and often self-ridicule by members. Points of orders are parliamentary devices that are meant to enrich debate and not instincts for disruptions of the business,” said Katjavivi.
Apart from unbecoming behaviour and irrelevant points of order that often portray parliament as a classroom, Katjavivi was also worried that some MPs rise on points of order that are not in any way related to the topic under discussion.
He said MPs are welcome to take part in discussions but they must remain relevant instead of using points of order to disrupt speakers.
“Before rising, seriously consider why you should intervene because we are here to finish the business of the day,” he said.
On top of that, Katjavivi vowed to ensure that the new MPs declare their assets to the National Assembly, a responsibility from which lawmakers of the fifth parliament ducked until their terms came to an end.
The last time MPs declared their assets was in 2009, but amid that, parliament sources claim those declarations were not transparent as some lawmakers failed to declare all their assets. A number of MPs, who served during the fifth parliament, are known beneficiaries of exploration licences and fishing quotas.
The issue of MPs not declaring their assets has even led to some lobby groups accusing lawmakers of formulating laws that favour their business interests and those of their cronies.
Even the Anti-Corruption Commission Director, Paulus Noa, last year called for a law compelling MPs to declare their assets, saying: “When a need arises to investigate an MP, it becomes difficult if there are no records of their assets. Therefore, if there is a law compelling them to register and they do not declare their assets, it will be easy to conduct investigations when the need arises.”
Minutes after being sworn-in on Friday, Katjavivi told reporters that: “Ensuring that MPs declare their assets will be my first responsibility and I will make it a priority.”
Most of the seasoned parliamentarians are also attending the workshop, which runs for the whole week, after heeding Katjavivi’s call on Friday that even those with knowledge on the operations of parliament should attend.
But as expected, the debutants were punctual and eager to get the ball rolling, while the more experienced MPs could be seen making their way into the chamber midway through the workshop.
Many people expected Katjavivi to call for a moment of silence at the start of proceedings in honour of the late DTA MP Phillemon Moongo, who died earlier this month while he was still a serving MP, but this was not the case.
Moongo will be buried this weekend at his village, Omaalala.
Of the new MPs, 18 have not been elected by the public – eight are President Dr Hage Geingob’s appointees while 10 were appointed by former President, Hifikepunye Pohamba.