Iivula-Ithana attempts to calm citizenship storm

by Elvis Muraranganda

Iivula-Ithana attempts to calm citizenship storm

Windhoek

Following the June 23 landmark Supreme Court ruling in which government was ordered to issue a full Namibian birth certificate to a child born to foreign parents but on Namibian soil, the home affairs and immigration ministry says wrong perceptions are being created in public regarding the matter.

The court gave the ministry of home affairs thirty days to rectify the matter.



Home affairs minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana made the comment about the wrong perceptions when she recently tried to clear the air on the issue and allay fears created by statements in print, electronic and social media. She was explaining a decision by her ministry to table a bill amending the Namibian Citizenship Act in a bid to undo the court ruling.

The bill, which some say is being rushed, sailed through the National Assembly and is now with the National Council select committee for consultation and review.

Iivula-Ithana further took exception to a caricature depicting Attorney General Sackey Shanghala holding a blind-folded white lady at knife-point, which is believed to symbolize an assault on the lady as representing the judiciary.

Iivula-Ithana said it also not true that American movie stars Brand Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s daughter Shiloh, born on Namibia soil, could lose her Namibian citizenship issued at the time of birth, because at the time the two parents were Namibian permanent residence holders.

In making government’s position clear on the matter Iivula-Ithana said: “Unnecessary fear is being installed 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 have interests. Some of our people will be happy for us to dish out citizenship left, right and centre because of their narrow interests, but we are aware of the problems that will create,” she explained.

“All actions we have taken and intend to take further are in the best interests of the considered interests of this country,” stated the home affairs minister.

On the Shanghala caricature, she noted that although its meaning is open to subjective interpretation, its caption carries the message that justice is being raped.

She said it also suggests that government, represented by Shanghala who happens to be of a race different to that of the white lady, is undermining constitutional democracy.

According to her, this is far from the truth, and she is inclined to believe that those perpetuating this untruth must have an ulterior agenda and motive.

“It has also been advanced that the bill was rushed. The effects of the judgement need expedient attention and the government has not breached any prescribed timelines in bringing this proposed amendment to Cabinet. Rushed? According to whose satisfaction?” she questioned.

“I assure the nation that the purpose we seek to achieve with the amendment is legitimate and within the constitutional ambit… This ministry is entitled to react to the effects created by the Supreme Court judgement and this is in the best interests of this country,” stated Iivula-Ithana.

“The officials of the ministry are the ones sitting with the implementation difficulties because of the judgement, and the elected leaders of this country have also considered the matter and are in agreement to have these effects dealt with,” she said.

She maintained that all necessary processes to reach parliament with the bill were followed to the letter.
Iivula-Ithana noted the first option for the ministry and Shanghala was to amend the Constitution, to which Cabinet agreed.

However, she said there was a change of mind by the executive in the matter, which led to the exploration of the other routes.
She said it is not true that it would mean that every time government loses a case in the Supreme Court it will go against courts by simply changing the laws.

“This is not the first time government, or specifically, the ministry has lost in the Supreme Court … But [we] never invoked the provisions of Article 81 of the Constitution. It is also not the first time we open our eyes to this Article.”

The minister further indicated that the reason for evoking it now is because there is a legitimate purpose that government seeks 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,” stated the home affairs minister.

“No! We take serious exception to the terminology used and the pun intended by some who have expressed their views in the media,” she said.

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