Namibia: Parliament Urged to Embrace Technology

SEVERAL MPs are calling on parliament to embrace technology to avoid delays in the law-making process, which could affect 12 bills that were expected to be tabled this year.

Parliament has been suspending sittings since last year due to the increase in the number of Covid-19 cases among its members.

The law-making house introduced 12 bills earlier this year, according to the proceedings on bills drafted seen by The Namibian.

Five of the bills were introduced in February this year by justice minister Yvonne Dausab.

She later withdrew the criminal procedure amendment bill.

The divorce bill, which will allow couples to separate without having to prove instances of adultery and indiscretion before a divorce can be granted, is also on the cards.

Rally for Democracy and Progress leader Mike Kavekotora told The Namibian this week that he does not understand why parliamentary sessions are disrupted by the lockdown.

"We are in a technological age where distance does not matter anymore. We can continue with our work remotely. So, there is no justification why parliament work should be disrupted by a lockdown whose end is not in sight."

Kavekotora said the speaker should think "outside the box and resume parliament virtually".

Swanu president Tangeni Iijambo says the delay was bound to happen given the virus circumstances the country finds itself in.

"All bills are of great importance. Unfortunately, bills cannot be tabled within the indefinite adjournment of the National Assembly," Iiyambo said.

He questioned whether lawmakers are prepared to explore innovative ways.

"Are we prepared both technologically and intellectually, [in terms of] infrastructure and perhaps intolerance considering the dire circumstances?" Iijambo asked.

"The delay postpones the implementation and solutions to issues affecting society. I am not sure what's causing the delay and hope it will not entirely be placed on Covid-19," political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah said.

He added that lawmakers should adapt parliament's operations to Covid-19.

Landless People's Movement deputy leader Henny Seibeb said: "The speaker failed to prioritise and let critical debates on bills take place. This shows that they are unable to carry out their mandate and instead waste their time with their obsession with us in parliament."

Seibeb said parliamentary standing committees were formed late and have since not discussed any matter.

"Last year, despite Covid-19, a few bills could have been debated and passed. This year, the speaker failed to discuss and pass critical bills," Seibeb said.

Swapo chief whip Hamunyera Hambyuka said he is disturbed that so far this year no bill was passed.

"I remember the minister of justice introduced bills this year. But these bills are still on the table of parliament, waiting for the reconvening of parliament," Hambyuka said.

Hambyuka suggested that the National Assembly introduce virtual sessions.

"It's very important to check and balance our roles. We have a long way to go, but the year is almost coming to an end," he said.

National Assembly spokesperson David Nahogandja said: "Some bills may be at the very beginning of the drafting process, others may be at stakeholders' consulting, while others may be at the approval stage."

He added that bills that have completed the draft process and were approved by the Cabinet may be tabled.

"It's a process that happens outside parliament, thus parliament has no control over it."

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