Report of Citizenship Bill possibly in NC on Wednesday

02 Aug 2016 15:50pm
WINDHOEK, 02 AUG (NAMPA) – The National Council (NC) is waiting for the report of public hearings held last week on the Namibian Citizenship Amendment Bill before it can discuss the proposed legislation, most likely on Wednesday.
The Bill was criticised by legal experts as unconstitutional if passed in its current form, when they presented their submissions on the Bill to the National Council's Select Committee on Friday.
The Bill is aimed at amending the Namibian Citizenship Act of 1990, to make clear the meaning of the term “ordinary resident” in relation to the acquisition of Namibian citizenship by birth of persons who are born in Namibia after Independence, and whose parents are not Namibian citizens.
The Bill was passed in the National Assembly (NA) before they went for recess in July and comes after the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration in June lost a ruling by the Supreme Court to grant a foreign couple's child citizenship.
The couple previously applied for citizenship for their first-born in 2009, which was refused. They were instead provided with a non-Namibian birth certificate, meaning the boy was born in Namibia but is not a Namibian citizen.
In 2012, they had another son in Namibia and an officer of the said ministry erroneously issued a Namibian birth certificate.
The couple sought clarity on the matter and took the ministry to the High Court over the refusal to grant their first-born a Namibian birth certificate and lost the case.
However, unsatisfied with the outcome, they approached the Supreme Court that ruled in their favour in June.
The couple has been living in Namibia on work permits since 2006.
The ministry was directed to grant the couple's child citizenship within 30 days by the Supreme Court.
In her presentation to the NC committee, Director of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) Toni Hancox said the Bill attempts to override the Supreme Court's holding on the meaning of the Namibian Constitution.
She explained the Bill contradicts the Supreme Court with a legislative provision that a person born in Namibia after the date of independence to non-Namibian parents acquires Namibian citizenship by birth, only if both parents were permanent residents at the time.
“The bill currently before this Council directly contradicts the Supreme Court's ruling. If it is passed, it would subvert the separation of powers, which is the essence of Namibia's Constitutional framework,” Hancox stated.
The Bill, she stressed, also fails the constitutional test in a further way since it contradicts Article Four (9) which states that: “Parliament shall be entitled to make further laws not inconsistent with this Constitution regulating the acquisition or loss of Namibian citizenship.”