Clarity on amendment of Citizenship Act

by Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana

Clarity on amendment of Citizenship Act

Following the recent media attacks and innuendos by certain individuals and bodies aimed at the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Attorney General in particular, it has become necessary for us to shed light and allay fears that have been created by such statements in both print and electronic media, inclusive of social media.

We have carefully followed the discussions in the media regarding this matter and a disturbing cartoon has emerged in one of the local daily newspapers last week, depicting the Attorney General holding a white lady at knifepoint – supposedly the blindfolded white lady is democracy.

We do not know what is intended by this. Although the meaning of the cartoon is open to subjective interpretation, its caption carries the message that justice has been raped and that government is undermining constitutional democracy. This is far from the truth.
It has also been advanced that the Bill was “rushed” through. The effects of the judgment need expedient attention and government has not breached any prescribed timelines in bringing this proposed amendment to Cabinet. Rushed? According to whose standard or satisfaction?



My statement in Parliament, motivating the need for the enactment of the Bill, is self-explanatory. I assure the nation that the purpose we seek to achieve with this amendment is a legitimate one and my statement is available for all to have reference to.
This ministry is entitled to react to the effects created by the Supreme Court judgment and this is in the best interest of this country and not for the “narrow interests” of government, as reported.

We are the ones sitting with implementation difficulties, because of the judgment and the elected leaders of this country have also considered the matter and are agreeable to have these effects dealt with.

The first option for this ministry and the Attorney General was to amend the Constitution. This option was agreed to by the Cabinet Committee on Legislation and eventually by Cabinet.

There was, however, a change of mind by the Executive in the matter, which then led to us exploring what other route could be implored to achieve the same purpose that the constitutional amendment would have achieved.

The route we have now taken was not our first option and this is not a secret, but it is provided for in the Constitution. I fail to understand what is unbecoming in doing something that is provided for by the supreme law of the land. Article 81 is clear in this regard.

It has been said and I quote: “The rush to use Parliament to stop issuing citizenship – as ordered by the Supreme Court – would thus have gone too far in creating a precedent – that every time the government loses a case, it can go against the courts by simply changing laws…”

Firstly, this is not the first time government, or specifically the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, has lost a case in the Supreme Court. We have lost many times before, but never, I repeat never, invoked the provisions of Article 81 of the Constitution; neither did we amend the law.

It is also not the first time we open our eyes to this Article. Some of us were involved in drafting this very Constitution. The reason we have invoked it now is because there is a legitimate purpose we seek to achieve.

We cannot start abusing it 26 years after Independence just for fun, or because we want to molest the system, as the accusations go. No! We take serious exception to the terminology used and the puns intended by some, who have expressed their views in the media.
Would it have been better if we asked the Supreme Court itself to reverse its decision (as equally provided for in the same Article 81)? I do not think so!

We respect the separation of powers and the route we have proceeded with is well within the ambit of the Constitution that many purport to defend now.

Unnecessary fear is being instilled in the minds of the Namibian people and this should be arrested in its tracks.
Government has interests – just like those who are accusing it of unbecoming behaviour also have interests. Some of our people will be happy for us to dish out citizenship left, right and centre, because of narrow interests, but we are aware of the problems that will be created.

All the actions we have taken and intend to take further are in the best considered interests of this country.
* Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana is the Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration.

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