Namibia: MPs to Consider Amending Constitution

THE National Assembly (NA) will this month consider a motion to discuss the possibility of amending constitutional provisions prohibiting civil servants from participating as candidates in national elections.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentarian Elma Dienda, who tabled the motion on Wednesday, said certain provisions of the Constitution seem to be "directly and indirectly discriminating against certain members of society" and violate their right to freely participate in democratic elections.

The specific provisions Dienda is concerned with are Articles 46 and 47 of the Constitution, as well as Section 77 of the Electoral Act of Namibia.

Article 47 of the Constitution specifically states: "No persons may become members of the National Assembly if they: (e) are remunerated members of the public service of Namibia; or (f) are members of the National Council, Regional Councils or Local Authorities."

This includes people employed as members of the defence force, the police, the correctional service, parastatal enterprises, regional councils and local authorities.

Dienda said these provisions are unconstitutional, because they impinge on the rights of Namibians to join the National Assembly without losing their jobs.

"The provision also . . . discriminates against members of the public and civil service, and not against those employed in the private sector," she said.

The PDM was punished by the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) during the 2019 NA elections over its reluctance to comply with a directive by the commission to have members who held jobs in the public service resign from their jobs before they could be nominated as NA candidates.

Other political parties, including Swapo, Nudo, and the Rally for Democracy and Progress, which also had members in the public service nominated as NA candidates, complied with the ECN's directive.

Among these candidates were former Oshakati chief executive officer Werner Iita, and councillor Katrina Shimbulu, who were left unemployed after they failed to be elected to the NA.

The PDM was embroiled in court battles last year after the party amended its list of parliamentarians to include people who refused to resign before the elections.

Dienda said the current arrangement puts enormous strain on public and civil servants, as they face the possibility of not only losing their income for more than four months before the swearing in of the new NA, but also of becoming unemployed permanently if they are not elected as members of the NA.

She recommended that candidates should no longer be told to resign from their jobs while having no assurance they would be elected to the NA.

Only after they are duly elected and sworn in as NA members should they be required to resign from their positions, Dienda said.

NA speaker Peter Katjavivi expressed support for the motion and is expected to rule on whether it should be referred to the relevant parliamentary standing committee for further deliberation.

Landless People's Movement parliamentarian Henny Seibeb also supported the motion.

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