MPs under fire

15 April 2019 | Government

Members of Parliament (MPs) who are late for work, read newspapers, fiddle on their mobile phones throughout sittings and desert their duties halfway through sessions are reducing the House to a laughing stock.

This is according to deputy director of social commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah.

He said the growing tendency of MPs deviating from legislating to other acts during sessions in the National Assembly shows that the politicians have no regard for the mandate for which it was established. He went on to say MPs are expected to lead by example, inside and outside the chambers of the assembly.

“They must know that because it is a public house, they are subjected to scrutiny in the sense that the public is watching what they are doing,” he added. Kamwanyah's comments come just a few days after safety minister, Charles Namoloh was caught on camera seemingly watching a movie instead of participating for around 15 minutes. Not too long ago, he was also seen playing games on his gadget.

Approached for comment, Namoloh was surprised by the fuss around him watching the video during a parliamentary session.

Namoloh said he was attending to more important things, rather than listening to a contribution by Workers Revolutionary Party MP Salmon Fleermuys. “Who was speaking? Fleermuys. How do I listen to Fleermuys?” he asked.

He then wanted to be informed of the specific legislation prohibiting him and other MPs from watching videos during sittings, saying he was keeping abreast of the latest developments in geopolitics.

“I want you to bring me that law. Who said we cannot click on a news (clip) and what is the essence or the importance of the discussion? I am a general. Do you understand?” said a fuming Namoloh.

Recently, trade minister Tjekero Tweya was caught visiting dating sites while proceedings were under way.

To vindicate himself, he said at the time: “What kind of a man would I be if I denied your inquiry. I humbly apologise for being a red-blooded member of the male species of Homo sapiens. I rebuke myself for not following my own code of conduct.”

Several other MPs are seen reading newspapers during sessions daily, instead of attending to the business at hand, which is against the decorum of the House according to its Speaker, Peter Katjavivi.

Katjavivi indicated that he would reprimand MPs who engage in non-parliamentary conduct during sessions.

Katjavivi said self-respecting MPs would not play games or be on dating sites during sessions.

Governance researcher Frederico Links echoed Kamwanyah's sentiments, adding that the unimpressive conduct by MPs is nothing new. He said Namibians are to blame as MPs have been allowed to rest on their laurels for far too long.

“This is happening but people aren't demanding better even though these parliamentarians are not directly accountable to the people,” he said.

He said MPs feel untouchable and go scot-free in most cases because they are not directly accountable to the electorate.

Consequently, the onus lies on political parties to call their members to order, Links noted.

The National Assembly is the principal legislative authority which has the power to make and repeal laws.

These developments come a few months after President Hage Geingob said 2019 will be the 'Year of Accountability'.

When Geingob opened the ninth session of the sixth parliament eight weeks ago, he called for due diligence in the law-making process. “Parliamentarians should be paragons of virtue,” Geingob told the MPs.

“Let your attendance and punctuality be a source of pride rather than allowing tardiness and absenteeism to be a source of your shame,” he said.

NAMPA