9 August 2018

Namibia: National Council Stronger At 25 - Mensah-Williams

THE National Council on Tuesday marked its silver jubilee in the capital, highlighting 25 years of success, challenges, lessons learnt and the legislative role it played.

National Council Chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams said the council's journey to where it is now was not a stroll in the park.

She pointed to a host of challenges, chiefly the lack of its own chamber, under-funding and low salaries.

However, some of the challenges have been addressed, such as the salaries of NC members, which were adjusted to the level of their peers in the National Assembly, she said.

Another challenge for the council was the separation of the administration from the National Assembly.

"There were proposals to have one secretary for both houses. But in the end, there was consensus that it made more sense to have separate administrations for the efficient running of the legislature," she said, adding that "you cannot be referee and player at the same time."

Mensah-Williams further said the business of the National Council has over the years been charac-terised by members see-king practical solutions to problems people face daily.

Shortly after delivering her address, the Chairperson responded to critics who say the council has lost its relevance in recent times.

"There will always be those who say we are irrelevant. But actions speak louder than words. We are the first house to come out with a white paper. We brought the motion on the removal of the red line; today it is a topical issue. It is us who brought the issue of human-wildlife conflict to the fore," she said.

Another notable achievement, she pointed out, was when the house of review passed the constituency development fund bill, aimed at making direct budgetary provisions for constituencies, in 2015.

Moreover, since 2006, NC members have consistently declared their assets and business interests for public scrutiny, something worth commending, Mensah-Williams stated.

"When I look back at how far the National Council has come, I realise that as members of parliament, we represent something bigger than ourselves," she said, before adding that the onus is on the current council members to leave behind a stronger institution than the one they found.

The National Council was inaugurated on 23 February 1993 by founding President Sam Nujoma.

It advises the National Assembly on any required changes to subordinate laws which come from the National Assembly. The National Council can also be tasked by the National Assembly to perform other tasks.

- Nampa

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