Namibia: MPs At Loggerheads On GBV Petition

The daily proceedings of the National Assembly (NA) on Thursday were disrupted after politicians failed to reach an agreement on how to deal with an urgent petition on gender-based violence (GBV) which was submitted to parliament.

A seemingly frustrated group of about 300 concerned young people who marched to parliament earlier today handed a petition to minister of justice Yvonne Dausab.

Their peaceful demonstration against the persisting crimes against women and children in the country was triggered by the discovery of human remains at Walvis Bay, suspected to be that of Shannon Wasserfall who has been missing since April this year.

In normal circumstances, petitions to the NA are dealt with by a relevant standing committee of parliament before they are submitted for discussion and resolution.

However, in this case, opposition parliamentarians objected to a suggestion by the deputy speaker of the NA, Loide Kasingo, to refer the GBV petition to a committee, arguing the existing committees were not properly constituted.

Before Kasingo's decision to refer the petition, Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani asked prime minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhil what the government was doing as a matter of urgency to address the GBV crisis in the country.

The prime minister said Cabinet this week established a "small committee of members of Cabinet" tasked with assessing measures implemented to address GBV.

"I take note that the petition is going to be referred to a parliamentary committee, but we are not going to sit and wait for that committee to recommend before we do something," she said.

The majority of opposition MPs did not buy into the prime minister's claims that "a small" Cabinet committee was established to deal with the matter.

They also rejected the proposal to refer the petition to a relevant standing committee and said it should rather be discussed on the floor to make resolutions.

The situation, however, became untenable after Kasingo, who was presiding over the discussions, refused to accommodate a proposal by PDM parliamentarian Vipua Muharukua to establish an ad-hoc committee to deal with the petition as the existing committees were under dispute.

"The National Assembly has the powers to establish any ad-hoc committee. If we want the petition to be referred, we will now start debating whether those committees have indeed been established [in terms of the law]. An important petition like this could be clouded by partisanship," Muharukua said.

He accused those who supported the idea of referring the petition of "protecting a Swapo illegality".

For two hours, the MPs were engaged in a back-and-forth debate on the legality of the standing committees and nothing was resolved regarding the urgent petition.

Kasingo later ruled that the different institutions addressed in the petition should be told to respond by Tuesday next week.

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