MPs making a mockery of Parliament - analyst

11 Apr 2019 19:10pm
WINDHOEK, 11 APR (NAMPA) – Members of Parliament (MPs) who are late for work, read newspapers, fiddle on their mobile phones throughout sittings and desert their duties halfway through sessions are reducing the legislative House to a laughing stock.
This is according to deputy director of the University of Namibia’s Centre for Professional Development and Teaching and Learning Improvement, Ndumba Kamwanyah, who spoke to Nampa on Wednesday.
He said the growing tendency of MPs deviating from the legislating to other acts during sessions in the National Assembly (NA) shows that the politicians have no regard for the mandate for which it was established.
The analyst went on to say MPs are expected to lead by example, inside and outside the chambers of the assembly.
“They must know that because it is a public house, they are subjected to scrutiny in the sense that the public is watching what they are doing, whether through TV or newspapers,” he added.
Kamwanyah’s comments come just a few days after Safety and Security Minister, Charles Namoloh was caught on camera seemingly watching a movie in the NA instead of participating in the affairs of the House for around 15 minutes. Not too long ago, he was also seen playing games on his gadget.
Approached for comment, Namoloh was surprised by the fuss around him watching the video during a parliamentary session.
Namoloh said he was attending to more important things, rather than listening to a contribution by Workers Revolutionary Party MP Salmon Fleermuys.
“Who was speaking? Fleermuys. How do I listen to Fleermuys?” he asked as he walked towards his vehicle.
He then wanted to be informed of the specific legislation prohibiting him and other MPs from watching videos during sittings, saying he was keeping abreast of the latest developments in geopolitics.
“I want you to bring me that law. Who said we cannot click on a news (clip) and what is the essence or the importance of the discussion (in the House at the time of watching)? I am a general. Do you understand?” said a fuming Namoloh.
Recently, Trade, Industrialisation and SME Development Minister Tjekero Tweya was caught visiting dating sites while proceedings were underway.
To vindicate himself, he said at the time: “What kind of a man would I be if I denied your inquiry. I humbly apologise for being a red-blooded member of the male species of homo sapiens. I rebuke myself for not following my own code of conduct.”
Several other MPs are seen reading newspapers during sessions daily, instead of attending to the business at hand, which is against the decorum of the House according to its Speaker, Peter Katjavivi.
According to the NA’s Standing Rules and Orders, as captured under Rule 116 – General Restrictions – a member may not “converse aloud or read newspapers or any other paper not connected with the business under consideration.”
Katjavivi, in a separate interview with Nampa indicated that he would reprimand MPs who engage in unparliamentary conducts during sessions.
Katjavivi said self-respecting MPs would not play games or be on dating sites during sessions.
The Speaker, who is out of the country on official business, could not be reached for comment.
Governance researcher Frederico Links echoed Kamwanyah’s sentiments, adding that the unimpressive conduct by MPs is nothing new.
He said Namibians are to blame as MPs have been allowed to rest on their laurels for far too long.
“This is happening but people aren’t demanding better even though these parliamentarians are not directly accountable to the people,” he said.
He said MPs feel untouchable and go scot-free in most cases because they are not directly accountable to the electorate.
Consequently, the onus lies on political parties to call their members to order, Links noted.
“They are not exactly there to be seized with debates. They are just there to rubber-stamp whatever is put before them. They are not there to question. They are not there to debate. They are not there to be critical,” he charged.
The National Assembly is the principal legislative authority which has the power to make and repeal laws.
These developments come a few months after President Hage Geingob, who heads the Executive arm of the State, said 2019 will be the “Year of Accountability.”
When Geingob opened the Ninth Session of the Sixth Parliament eight weeks ago, he called for due diligence in the law-making process.
“Parliamentarians should be paragons of virtue,” Geingob told the MPs.
“Let your attendance and punctuality be a source of pride rather than allowing tardiness and absenteeism to be a source of your shame,” he said.
It however appears as though Geingob’s words have fallen on deaf ears, judging by the conduct of MPs in recent times.
In addition, more often than not MPs, especially ministers, demand the best possible work ethic and service delivery from public servants.
However, the modus operandi in the NA indicates that MPs are unable to replicate that which they demand in the House.
On Monday, Urban and Rural Development Minister Peya Mushelenga complained about employees in his ministry, branding them incompetent, unprofessional and unpunctual, among other things.
For now, lawmaking has been put on ice until next week after MPs were granted leave to attend the funeral of Ondonga Traditional Authority leader, King Immanuel Elifas who will be buried on Saturday.