Our democracy this week passed with flying colours the stern test of character related to the Namibian Citizenship Amendment Bill, which the National Council on Wednesday rejected as unconstitutional in principle.
Cabinet, as reported elsewhere in this edition, also upheld the decision of the Supreme Court, which ruled in favour of a foreign couple who wanted full Namibian citizenship for their minor child.
The Supreme Court’s ruling came after numerous failed attempts by the Dutch couple to convince government – specifically the ministry of home affairs – to issue citizenship to their child.
In many a country, especially in autocratic regimes and sometimes emerging democracies, courts seldom break ranks with government on any matter.
But our judiciary proved again that it is indeed independent as is widely recognised worldwide. What was saddening, and a threat to our democracy and rule of law, was the attempt to amend the Citizenship Act to seemingly ensure that the Supreme Court ruling does not get implemented.
We have, in principle, no qualms about the principle of the new bill, which we see as a mere genuine attempt by government to prevent ‘birth tourism’ by foreigners giving birth on Namibian soil.
But the bill should have been introduced after the court order had been fully implemented. To delay implementing a court order, so that a new legal requirement is introduced to deal with the matter that the court has ruled on, was a desperate measure which reflected badly on our country and its democratic strength.
But we won’t dwell on that now. What matters now is that Cabinet recognised the importance of respecting the law of the land and that court orders must be complied with unconditionally – irrespective of who is at the receiving end of such ruling.
The law is bigger than all of us put together, and it was pleasing to note that Cabinet too has recognised this fact.
Another interesting, some would say exciting, development was when the National Council – often seen as pushovers of the National Assembly – on Wednesday rejected the same bill and referred it back to the National Assembly.
Our institutions are many a time very politicised, so much so that they are too scared to differ with each other because they are dominated by people from the same political establishment. If it wasn’t for this kind of collusion for political expediency, our democracy and institutions would have been far stronger than they are today.
We must usher our country into an era where clashes of perspectives – based on principles – do not create immediate impressions that one is anti-this or pro-that, as is often currently the case.
We must nurture a culture of frank debates and discourse if we are genuine about building strong policies and institutions geared towards making this nation the greatest in Africa and, one day, the world.
While at it, we would still like to encourage Minister Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana and her team to go ahead and refine our policies related to immigration and citizenship, so that our country has total control over who becomes a citizen and who does not.
The fact that Namibia is that country where foreigners could drag government to local courts and win is another testimony that indeed we are an exemplary African democracy, from whom our peers can draw inspiration.