…Tweya defends new parliament
Former ruling party lawmakers says the timing to construct a new parliament building is wrong and such a plan, although it has good intentions, should be shelved while Government addresses more pressing issues. Parliament, however, remains resolute that the construction of a new parliament building should go ahead, despite several pressing needs on the table. Former Prime Minister Nahas Angula and former education minister, Dr David Namwandi, this week joined the debate regarding the planned megaproject, both have aired reservations over the unknown cost of the project. From the time news of a new parliament surfaced, various amounts have been thrown around from N$700 million and now N$2.7 billion. President Hage Geingob made it clear this year that he will not interfere in the affairs of the legislation in a bid to uphold the separation of powers between the executive and the legislation.
Geingob is, however, forgetting that as Swapo Party president, he can still directly influence the future of the project. The calls to shelve the project have created a difficult situation for the ruling party, which has insisted that the project go ahead regardless of the public view. On 16 June, activists are preparing to demonstrate in front of the Tintenpalast in a bid to convince politicians to halt plans to build a new parliament and instead focus their attention on other issues that are crippling the nation. “Taking into account the economic status of country and many challenges, I do not think a new parliament is a priority right now. It is something that can be shelved and revisited at a later stage,” Namwandi said. He also called on lawmakers to announce the exact cost of the planned building instead of keeping the nation in the dark. “The timing is wrong, and more so the public is being kept in the dark over the exact cost of the project, why is it being kept a secret?” he questioned. Ardent supporters of Geingob have in recent months claimed that activists across the country are taking advantage of the country’s current shortcomings to discredit the President, with some arguing that activists were idling in their shells during the past administration but now that Geingob is in charge criticism is all over.
“If we have a problem we must face it, things are not good currently and some of us are not supporting certain groups we talk of national priorities. People must not think they have a monopoly of intelligence…when you say something you are classified as a rebel and they become suspicious as to where you stand even though it is not the case. It cannot be right that only some people can speak their minds and others not,” said Namwandi, who is still in the party’s central committee. “The new parliament [building] is a noble idea but the timing is not on our side and there is no urgency. I am not against the new parliament but against the construction thereof at this point in time. We have a water shortage and hunger in the country, why do we not attend to those first? If our people die as a result of missed priorities what will the MPs debate in the new parliament?” he questioned If MPs are serious, challenged Namwandi, they must come up with the exact costing and tell the nation the real cost.
Former Prime Minister, Nahas Angula, was reluctant to out rightly support or oppose the project. “My understanding is that this project is still under planning, if something is under planning we must wait until the planning stage is done and then act based on that. I am not saying nobody should demonstrate but perhaps it is premature, especially considering the fact that the plans are not finished and there is no final figure,” he said. Angula, who left parliament last year, said he is also eager to see the final cost.
“It is difficult to make a matured judgment right now and only at that time can [we] weigh it against other priorities and ask ourselves whether to continue or not,” he said. Despite that, Angula went on to say: “Personally, I think there are more important things to tackle such as water, food, schools dilapidating, clinics, to me those are the current priorities, I am not saying it should be the priority for others, that is my take and it can even be more. “I was also a young person way back, I used to do the same things the youth of today are doing. So, I am not surprised that they are doing what we used to do to the ‘Boers’ during our days,” he said.
The planned demonstration – if it goes ahead – will be the second in two years. In 2014, a group of demonstrators who called themselves Namibian Voices, handed over a petition signed by more than 800 people, demanding that the plan for the construction of a new parliament building should be scrapped. The poor turnout at the time has been used by the politicians to go ahead with the plan because only a small section of the public was deemed to oppose the construction. The Namibian reported recently that the new parliament will have features, such as 400 offices and the size of the chamber will accommodate 300 politicians. Seats for the public and the media are reportedly in the region of 500.
Tweya defends new parliament
Government spokesperson Tjekero Tweya yesterday held a media conference to clear the air regarding the status of the envisaged building. The minister said plans to construct a new parliament has been in the pipeline for the past 20 years. “The envisaged Parliament building project dates back 20 years ago and has been postponed several times due to other national priorities. The need for this project is underscored by the inadequacy of space and escalating maintenance costs die to old infrastructure,” he explained. He said the project is currently in its planning and design stage for which only N$12 million has been budgeted in the current financial year. “The committee recognized various competing national priorities and constraints such as the current drought situation, water shortages, poverty, as well as the current fluctuating currency situation,” he said.