Public hearing held on Local Authorities Amendment Bill

24 Jan 2016 18:40pm
WINDHOEK, 24 JAN (NAMPA) – The alienation of immovable property for Namibian citizens and appointment of chief executive officers (CEOs) formed the basis of discussions during the Local Authorities Amendment Bill public hearing in the National Council Friday.
The Bill was referred to the National Council (NC) by the National Assembly (NA) in November last year with amendments, and thereafter it was referred to joint house committees for further deliberation.
Issues pertaining to the restriction of the sales of immovable property were raised as one of the deficiencies arising from the initiation of the Bill.
Clause 33A (3) and Clause 33B(1)(a) of the Amendment Bill state that a foreign national may not acquire immovable property in a local authority area and that a Namibian owner of immovable property situated in a local authority area who intends to alienate the property may only alienate the property to a Namibian citizen.
Representatives from the property and real estate industry felt that this would scare away foreign investment which impacts the market negatively, and thus it would be cumbersome to pass the Bill.
Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) research associate, Max Weylandt, said several provisions in the Bill are counterproductive.
He stated that allowing foreigners to purchase property in Namibia would increase competition and lower prices.
He added that prohibiting foreign purchase would discourage foreign investment in Namibia and at a time when economies around the world are concerned about another recession, Namibia cannot afford to turn down the capital needs of the country.
Weylandt further stated that the IPPR was concerned that the local authorities were not consulted when the initial Bill was drafted.
“We therefore urge all our elected representatives to begin the process again by consulting all stakeholders and drawing up a new Bill,” he said.
The second amendment in the Bill that local authorities are unhappy about is the appointment of new CEOs, citing that the clause provided in the Bill gives the line minister more authority in the appointment process, thus making the work of local councillors irrelevant.
The mayor of the City of Windhoek, Muesee Kazapua, stated during the public hearing that the Bill also takes away the element of accountability as the minister is garnished with more powers and control over elected council members and local authorities.
“In our view, the proposed amendments impact negatively, and in a profound manner, the goals of our constitution and the stated ideals of devolution of power through decentralisation, the principles of accountability and democratic governance,” the mayor said.
Gobabis Municipality management committee member, Liberius Kalili noted that the amended provisions of the Bill are that the appointment of a CEO will be done by the management committee of the local authority, but approval should be solicited by the line minister.
“We want the current status quo to remain as it is,” he further stated.
Other concerns raised about the Bill were the literacy requirements for electing members of a local authority; suspension of a local authority; the appointment of a CEO; procedures and conducts of disciplinary inquiries; powers of local authority councils; and restrictions on the sale of immovable property and alienation thereof.
Minister of Rural and Urban Development, Sophia Shaningwa, who responded to some of the issues raised by the local councillors and stakeholders during the public hearing, said the issue of local councillors required to communicate in the official language, English, will be withdrawn from the Bill.
Every member of a local authority is required to communicate, read and write in the official language.
The NC’s first session for the year takes place on Monday.