Government yesterday said it is sitting on a recommendation to only decide on the magnitude and actual construction of the new parliament building once the planning and feasibility study for the project are done.
This could mean money allocated to the project in the current medium term expenditure framework (MTEF) could be shifted to other priorities if the feasibility study planned for this year declares the project as not urgent.
The bulk of the N$12 million allocated to the project in the current financial year will go towards its planning and feasibility work.
A committee chaired by Vice-President Nickey Iyambo concluded that there remains a need for a new parliament building due to space constraints in the current chambers, as well as high maintenance fees.
This new information and recommendations came after President Hage Geingob instructed senior government figures – including Vice-President Nickey Iyambo – to convene a press conference and explain to the nation how the building costs, which initially stood at N$800 million, escalated to N$2.2 billion.
Geingob had instructed Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, Deputy Prime Minister Nandi-Ndaitwah, National Assembly Speaker Peter Katjavivi, Chairperson of the National Council Margaret Mensah-Williams and Presidential Affairs Minister Frans Kapofi to hold the press conference together.
Yesterday Information and Communication Technology Minister Tjekero Tweya confirmed that Iyambo chaired the meeting of the committee involving the officials tasked by Geingob to provide clarity on the project.
“The vice-president highlighted the main issues of concern for the government which are also currently in the media such as food shortage (school feeding programmes), water shortage, drought, poverty and others, within the context of the proposed parliament building,” Tweya informed journalists yesterday.
“The envisaged parliament building project dates back 20 years and has been postponed several times due to other national priorities,” he explained.
“The need for this project is underscored by the inadequacy of space (due to increased membership of parliament), and escalating maintenance costs for old infrastructure over 100 years.”
He added that the meeting then resolved that there is a legitimate need for a new parliament building.
“The project is currently only in a planning and design stage for which only N$12 million has been budgeted in the current financial year.”
“The committee recognised the various competing national priorities and constraints such as the current drought, water shortages and poverty in the country, as well as the current fluctuating currency situation.”
He continued: “In view of the above, and as a responsible government, the committee finally resolved to recommend that the magnitude of the project, and the actual construction thereof, be informed upon conclusion of the project’s planning and feasibility stage.”
The news about that construction of the new parliament has had Namibians up in arms with some adding that the building is not a priority at this stage.
Meanwhile, a mass demonstration is looming against the project by the youth under the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement slated for June 16.
However, this has led to an unpopular decision by the police to impose a temporary moratorium on public demonstrations in Windhoek during the period June 13-18, 2016, a move said to have been necessitated by “other security considerations, due to multiple international events taking place in the capital” during those seven days.
AR, who were locked in a marathon meeting with the police yesterday, last night said they have reached consensus that the ban is “not valid in terms of law” and are awaiting the police leadership to issue a fresh position on the planned demonstrations.
Legal experts have warned that the decision to ban peaceful demonstrations could be in violation of the country’s constitution.
One such expert is local lawyer Titus Ipumbu who explained that it appears as if police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga is relying on an apartheid-era proclamation.
“Which in my view, may be equivalent to that he has reason to think that the public peace would be seriously endangered; the public order would be threatened or that any person would be killed or seriously injured, or valuable property would be destroyed seriously damaged,” Ipumbu told New Era.
He continued that this could mean Ndeitunga has reasons to believe that feelings of hostility between different sections of the population would be caused, encouraged or fomented.
“[Ndeitunga] must know that the Public Gathering Proclamation was made a law on July 18, 1989 with a purpose to curb possible campaign violence during the United Nations-supervised elections campaign in 1989.”
“It is unfortunate that the proclamation which was crafted with ‘brute’ by the late Administrator-General of South West Africa Louis Pienaar, is also being applied with force against the people of Namibia by our native elite 26 years post-independence,” he added.
“We must understand that the public are airing their views against the construction of a parliament at a time the country faces enormous socio-economic challenges.”
He noted that instead of the political leadership engaging the public and paying heed to their protests, they ignore the people.
“It is a misdirection if one thinks that because the planned demonstration was proposed by a particular group, namely the AR, it becomes an AR demonstration and therefore it must be banned.”
“The ban does not amount to reasonable restrictions which are necessary in a democratic society. The ban is retrogressive and inimical to the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens.”