'Rule of law flouted'

Commentators have argued that privileges being handed out without any legal provision, open the door to despotism and arbitrariness.

19 March 2019 | Government

Government's decision to implement provisions of a draft bill, so it can accommodate former Vice-President Nickey Iyambo, flies in the face of the rule of law, commentators say.

Iyambo resigned from public office in February last year due to ill health, but has been living in a government house, despite there being no legal basis for this.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani has asked Ombudsman John Walters to investigate the saga.

Political commentator Henning Melber said on Twitter it was a “tricky situation”, because the absence of a law does not by implication make it illegal.

He, however, added that if privileges are handed out without any legal provision, it opens the door to despotism and arbitrariness, turning the rule of law into “the law of the rulers”.

“I would say it was at best very ill-advised favouritism. It reinforces the message that the self-privilege of the political elite knows hardly any limits, despite an economic crisis of epic proportions affecting the well-being of ordinary people,” said Melber.

Presidential affairs minister Martin Andjaba admitted last week that interim arrangements in one of two draft bills relating to former and sitting vice-presidents were implemented to take care of Iyambo.

The two bills were birthed out of consultations with Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and aim to regulate the upkeep of incumbent and former vice-presidents.

Iyambo, whose retirement package is still under wraps, was living in a government house in the interim, Andjaba admitted.

“We will get ample time to debate the merits of the proposals contained in the bills when I present them for adoption. It is what we determine in this august house, which will be the basis for any dispensation which we offer the current and future former vice presidents,” he said in parliament.



Shocking

Constitutional expert Nico Horn made it clear that government cannot just make a law.

“The issue that we need to understand is that legislation can only be passed by legislative bodies,” said Horn.

He added while the president has legislative powers, these are limited and that any proposed law must eventually go through parliament.

Social commentator Fredericko Links said government's actions are “shocking” and shows an attitude of disrespecting the rule of law.

According to him this reeks of a “patronage network” for Swapo buddies.

“This government keeps on doing these things that sends out the wrong message. It is quite clear that they are willing to suspend the rule of law when it comes to senior party leaders,” he said.

Meanwhile, Venaani has demanded that Iyambo pay rental fees for the government house, commensurate to the standard of the property.

He also asked that proof of payment be made available to him through the Office of the Ombudsman.

JEMIMA BEUKES

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