As the curtain closes on the legislature for the year 2016, New Era’s chief political reporter Elvis Muraranganda engaged the Speaker of the National Assembly, Professor Peter Katjavivi, to share insight on the year that was – its achievements, challenges and setbacks.
NE: What were some of the key undertakings at the National Assembly during 2016?
PK: “During 2016, I attended the UNESCO-sponsored Jose Marti Project of International Solidarity Conference that was held in Cuba. After the opening of Parliament by President Hage Geingob we witnessed the tabling of the National Budget 2016 known as the Appropriation Bill 2016, amounting to over N$61 billion, by the Minister of Finance (Calle Schlettwein).
“As per the law of our Republic, President Hage Geingob also delivered his annual state of the nation address to Parliament in the National Assembly chamber.
“In May, I opened the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and Parliament of Namibia National Seminar for Parliamentarians on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), in Windhoek.
“Apart from participating in the 39th Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) Plenary Assembly in Swaziland, I also, in June, received the Indian President, Shri Pranab Mukherjee who addressed the Namibian Parliament in the chamber.
“Early July, MPs attended a one-day workshop on the presentation of the Harambee Prosperity Plan facilitated by senior presidential advisors.
“Let us also not forget that as Speaker, I undertook regional oversight visits to Kunene and Omusati regions. In August we welcomed our new chief accounting officer Lydia Tjihimise Kandetu who was appointed as Secretary to the National Assembly.
“These are but just some of the key undertakings among many during the year 2016 but over and above the engagements listed above, we would also like to indicate that parliamentary committees, in exercising their oversight responsibilities, have participated in various activities both within and outside the country.”
NE: What were some of the setbacks during 2016?
PK: “Some of the major setbacks during the course of undertaking the responsibilities of the National Assembly, this year, include the volatility in the current financial climate in the country and region at large, coupled with the prolonged drought, which have created a particular challenge to our country.
“This impacted negatively on the finances of the country, including the National Assembly. Parliament managed to mobilize supplementary resources with development partners so as to continue exercising its mandate as much as possible.”
NE: What was the implementation rate for the National Assembly for 2016?
PK: “During this year, the National Assembly had 87 sittings, no days without a quorum, tabled 20 bills, passed 16 without amendments and three with amendments, as well as reconsidered two bills as recommended by the National Council. No bills were referred to standing committees – two were withdrawn and no bill lapsed. On conventions, agreements and policies, 19 were tabled, 17 adopted, one was deferred and no single one lapsed.
“MPs tabled 19 motions, three were adopted, one was re-directed to be dealt with by the minister, another was deferred for consultations and two were withdrawn while no motion was rejected. Only 11 motions were referred to standing committees and one lapsed.
“Regarding annual and ministerial reports the House received 22, while 101 Auditor-General (AG) reports were also tabled this year.
“Sixty of the AG reports on councils were referred to the National Council’s Public Accounts Committee and none were returned to the AG’s office after being reviewed.
“A total of 14 reports on local visits, meetings, public hearings conducted, came before the National Assembly and 12 extra on foreign visits, meetings attended, were also tabled. One committee report was withdrawn.
“MPs asked 110 questions with notice, 107 were replied to, three lapsed and 22 were asked without notice or were oral questions. ”
NE: What are some of the projects that are being carried over to the next year?
PK: “Most of the bills which were not submitted in good time for consideration will be carried forward into 2017, for instance the bills relating to whistle-blowers; access to information relating to electronic gadgets; cybercrime; and land. The Parliamentary Service Bill, expected to establish the Parliamentary or Legislative Service Commission, is also one of the most important issues we have to deal with soonest in the coming year.’’
NE: There were some ideological clashes during the debates this year, how were they ironed out?
PK: “Like in most parliamentary debates, there are issues that present themselves in a manner that creates a deviation in opinion and definitely attracts a heated debate. The budget debate is one of those, the question of land, the Public Private Partnership Bill and the Namibia Investments Promotion Bill.
“This kind of scenario may raise emotions in the house. However, this is expected in any mature democratic society especially one characterized by a multiparty parliamentary democracy. At the end we resolve these challenges through consensus and if there is no consensus, we exercise our democratic rights by voting in order to find a way forward.
NE: How was the relationship between the National Council and the National Assembly in 2016?
PK: “The relationship between the National Assembly and the National Council has continued to be strengthened and the leadership in both Houses has continued to innovate joint ways of further engagement locally, regionally and globally, in forums that benefit the Namibian Parliament as one. As a Parliament comprising two Houses, we have developed and deepened engagement between the National Assembly and the National Council on matters that transcend our legislative mandate. We have done this in partnership with regional and international institutions. We are continuing to work closely on matters pertaining to gender and youth emancipation, the eradication of child marriages, budgetary oversight and scrutiny, effective development cooperation and aid effectiveness, as well as wildlife conservation and climate change adaptation, amongst others.
“Despite the financial constraints in the country, together with our development partners, we have continued to innovate supplements to our budget.”
NE: What is your message to the Namibia nation as the head of the legislature?
PK: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank the entire nation of Namibia for the collective support and cooperation extended to Parliament during the course of this year. Regardless of whatever challenges we had, we were able to explicitly tackle them and end on a high note as seen above. In a multi-party democracy, there are always divergent views. This is to be expected. However, as a democratic nation, we always find each other, to create a consensus. This is a sign of maturity, which is to be appreciated by all of us.
“In life as we all know, there are always ups and downs, and I would like to say without any hesitation that we have displayed a sense of maturity and our collective responsibility to discharge our mandate as best as possible. Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a safe, peaceful and joyful festive season! We hope to begin the new year 2017, re-energized for the work ahead!”