Swapo MPs not barred from speaking their minds: Katjavivi

07 Nov 2018 12:20pm
WINDHOEK, 07 NOV (NAMPA) – National Assembly (NA) Speaker Peter Katjavivi has come out on Tuesday saying Swapo Members of Parliament (MPs) are “not barred from speaking frankly”.
His comments follow calls for Swapo parliamentarians who criticise the government to be reprimanded and its leader - President Hage Geingob’s reminder that they are on the party’s ticket.
Katjavivi was responding to questions by Nampa on whether Swapo MPs, who constitute around 80 per cent of the National Assembly, are not allowed to speak freely or be critical about Government affairs.
Katjavivi said all parties in Commonwealth parliaments engage in party caucuses and have Whips.
“This system is not intended to stifle the views of MPs, but rather to distinguish between issues that can be handled internally in the party and those for the floor of the House,” he said.
Further, the party caucus serves as a clearing house system to iron out internal party challenges that could also be shared in the House.
Last week, Poverty Eradication Minister Zephania Kameeta condemned fellow Swapo MP and Deputy Minister of Public Enterprises Veikko Nekundi for criticising the government and local authorities in the NA.
Institute for Public Policy Research director Graham Hopwood was quoted by a local daily as saying that the danger of too many people agreeing on issues compromises the party’s ability to critically reflect on its record and may undermine plans, which eventually means a weaker Government.
On Friday, at the opening of the Swapo central committee (CC) meeting, Geingob expressed displeasure in the manner in which ruling party officials conduct themselves in the House.
The comments made by Geingob - a member of the executive - at the CC meeting were viewed by some as an infringement on the legislature.
To this, Katjavivi said: “The President of the Republic, who is also the president of Swapo, was simply addressing the question of inner-party discipline. That was the context of his opinion and we should not over-extend it.”
He added: “As indicated earlier, following the internal party whipping system as well as the platform of party caucuses, many MPs are able to make a positive contribution to good governance in the country, without feeling inhibited in any way. Governance is a collective effort especially if one is from the governing party.”
Asked that if Swapo MPs refrain from being critical in the National Assembly, would it make a difference as the majority whether they attended or decide to stay away, Katjavivi said: “All Swapo MPs are allowed to question their government whenever there is a necessity to do so and this is allowed in any democracy.”