Windhoek — Speaker of the National Assembly Professor Peter Katjavivi says a new article that appeared in a daily newspaper accusing him of bias is baseless. He says the article in question seeks to purposefully tarnish the image of the National Assembly in general and his person as the presiding officer.
"The article emanates from The Urban And Regional Planning Bill introduced in Parliament recently. In the article, the opposition is said to be crying foul over what they allege to be blockage by the Speaker from objecting to the continuation of the aforementioned bill. This was after they had walked out of Parliament several times in an attempt to frustrate the continuation of the bill," he stated.
"They cite a decision taken by Parliament this year to put any land discussions on hold pending the land conference that was postponed to next year for further consultations as the reason for their objection for the continuation of the said bill," the Speaker further stated.
They further accuse the Speaker of being biased and in the process weakening the law-making process. As if that was not enough, the same reporter seemed to continue with his relentless crusade, in a totally unrelated story that is wholly subjective," Katjavivi remarked. He said the article, with the headline "Geingob's critics eliminated," read like an opinion piece and alleges that Katjavivi has publicly favoured the ruling party in Parliamentary discussions, adding that the report was "totally baseless and [the journalist] makes no effort to verify facts, as required by journalism ethics, by contacting the person being accused in order to have a fair and balanced story.
"This reply which should have been part of the article in the first place, had the journalist done his job, seeks to clarify the misinformation and unfounded rumours which were peddled by the opposition in cohorts with the writer of the article," the Speaker said.
"First and foremost, the Urban and Regional Planning Bill should be put into context. This bill is not about land distribution or resettlement. The intention of this bill is to have a framework within which local authorities would function in their day-to-day operations.
"The name of the bill is very clear and its principal aim would be to empower local authorities when it comes to the planning and proclamation of towns and settlements. Therefore, the bill has nothing to do with land distribution or the land conference and that misunderstanding should be cleared," he clarified.
"The bill, which has now been referred to the National Council for review had gone through all the stages and had been approved by Members of the National Assembly by way of voting. As dictated by democracy, Members of Parliament were afforded the chance to vote for the bill and it sailed through based on those votes.
"It had reached its third reading when Hon. Usutuaije Maamberua from the opposition objected and wanted to make a statement to that effect. Unfortunately, at this stage since the bill had already been debated and scrutinised in the first two stages, no further debate is allowed.
"What is allowed is merely a chance for a member to have their opposition to the bill formally recorded in the minutes of the proceedings," Katjavivi pointed out.
As the presiding officer, the Speaker is duty-bound to respect the rules of the House at all times. Reference is made to the Standing Rules and Orders of the National Assembly, rule 78 clearly stating the following:
'Whenever a question is put by the presiding member, any member may, instead of demanding a division, inform the presiding member that he/she wishes his/her opposition or that of the party to which he/she belongs, to be formally recorded in the minutes of proceedings: provided that the presiding member may order that a division shall take place in the event of three or more members wishing to record their individual opposition.'
"The opposition's criticism of the Speaker, who was only performing his duty according to the standing rules and orders, is totally groundless and lacks logic. This is so considering the fact that some of the members concerned are long-serving lawmakers, who should be well versed with the rules of the House.
"We would advise that in future, it would be better to seek clarity whenever accusations are levelled against the Speaker in order to get a fair and factual account of events in the pursuance of one of the epitomes of good journalism - which is fair and balanced reporting. Peddling falsehoods is a desperate campaign to undermine governance in the country and has no room in our democracy," the Speaker concluded.