12 February 2019

Namibia: I Don't Owe Anybody Favours - Katjavivi

Speaker of the National Assembly Peter Katjavivi says he does not owe members of the National Assembly anything to rule in their favour when their motions are rejected through a majority vote.

Katjavivi made these remarks in Windhoek during a press briefing on the plans and activities lined up for the National Assembly during 2019 before the official opening tomorrow. These remarks were a response to the criticism that he only favours debates from Swapo parliamentarians, while suppressing the views of the opposition.

Katjavivi has, in the past, been criticised by members of the opposition parties for not acting impartially during debates, and of having an unfair bias in blocking off critical discussions since becoming speaker in 2015.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) chief whip Jennifer van den Heever last year accused Katjavivi of disregarding the rules, and weakening the National Assembly.

When asked about his objectivity yesterday, Katjavivi said he does not have any agenda to suppress any MP or opposition party from contributing to debates in the National Assembly.

He said he only works according to the rules governing the activities of parliament.

"I am a referee, and the rules of the house govern me. It is not necessarily a true reflection of my character. I know myself, and I don't owe anybody favours. My job is to discharge the responsibility of this house to the best of my ability," he stated.

He added that the rules of procedure in the National Assembly were clear, and if motions from the opposition parties are rejected through majority votes, it does not mean he is against certain people.

"It is a standard practice that is done everywhere in the world. The rules are clear. I think I am the best judge of myself. I don't have an agenda to suppress anybody, and I value every member's contribution in this house," he said, adding "I think we have been doing very well on balance, honestly speaking".

On the activities for 2019, Katjavivi announced the delivery of the parliamentary community outreach bus donated by the Chinese parliament.

The Namibian reported last year that Katjavivi had pleaded for the bus when he addressed the chairperson of the standing committee of the National People's Congress of China, Li Zhanshu.

Yesterday, the speaker said the bus will be used as a mobile parliament for MPs to travel around the country.

He added that the bus was equipped with features which will allow parliamentarians to work as they travel.

"It is an opportunity to showcase the work of parliament to the citizens in any particular region," he said.

He furthermore stated that there were about 16 bills that would be tabled in the National Assembly this year.

Among the legislation on the proposed list is the divorce bill; the combating of rape amendment bill; the electronic transactions bill; and the arms and ammunition bill.

Katjavivi said the National Assembly will also go paperless this year, and parliamentarians will be expected to use the 157 Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite tablets donated by Chinese company Huawei last year.

The devices were worth a combined N$700 000.

The speaker noted that all MPs will be expected to declare their assets at the beginning of the year.

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