11 Aug 2014 10:40am
WINDHOEK, 11 AUG (NAMPA) - Namibia is a citizen-based democracy, and democracy requires certain degrees of consent before major changes are enacted.
These were the words of political scientist Prof Andre du Pisani, also echoing the sentiments of many ordinary citizens who last Thursday attended a discussion with the chairperson of the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) Sacky Shanghala as keynote speaker.
The forum was organised by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), and focused on the Third Constitutional Amendment Bill, with many questioning the haste in which the Bill with over 40 changes, was tabled in Parliament.
Amongst others, the Bill proposes the amendment of Article 32 of the Constitution for the creation of an office for a vice-president, and seeks to rearrange the hierarchy of succession.
It also makes provision for the president to appoint the head of the Intelligence Services, and for an increase in the composition of the National Assembly from 72 to 96 members.
Many indicated at the forum that they are not so much against some of the proposed amendments, but felt it is simply arrogant and patronising for Namibian leaders to think and make decisions on peoples behalf.
The fundamental problem we have before us is the question of whether we as citizens have free and voluntary choice.
Have we decided as a nation that these amendments are required? Have we agreed or consented to the scope of these amendments? Du Pisani questioned.
He furthermore wanted to know who actually consented to these proposed amendments, before stating that the question of consent is not straightforward.
Du Pisani said the conditions in Namibia are such that people cannot freely decide on each and every thing in politics, even if they voted for the party which governs.
Am I obliged to support these proposed amendments if the consent on which these amendments are based is problematic? he asked.
According to him, the process that the country is witnessing now regarding the constitutional amendments is what philosophers would call hypothetical consent.
Du Pisani explained that based on the assumption that all political parties represented the will of the people and are their representatives, if they (parties) are adequately consulted, it by extension means the people have been consulted.
In his address on what the LRDC proposed regarding the constitutional amendments, Shanghala assured the forum that nothing in the proposed amendments will harm peoples fundamental freedoms and rights.
He noted that nothing in the amendments increases the power of the legislature, executive or judiciary in respect of peoples rights.
These amendments are by and large clean-up amendments aimed at ensuring that governance through the problems that the country experienced is smoother and more accountable.
There is no hidden agenda in the text that we proposed. If there are those who see the hidden agenda, let them expose it, he stated.