Young Namibians and lawmakers are at loggerheads as to whether the construction of a new parliament building should go ahead or not. With President Hage Geingob having distanced himself from the parliament debate saying “it is a legislative matter”, the final decision now lies with the lawmakers. The youth expected National Assembly Speaker, Professor Peter Katjavivi, to explain the way forward when he received their petition yesterday, but to their disappointment, he would not to say a word regarding the plight of the demonstrators who waited for his address. Initially, the new parliament was set to cost N$700 million, but recent estimates put the cost as high as N$2.7 billion.
Affirmative Repositioning (AR) said the fact that some MPs have spoken against the construction of the new parliament shows that the investment is not needed. AR led a number of youth activists, who wanted a reasonable response from Katjavivi regarding the building of the N$2.2 billion parliament that will be named after the flower-like plant found in the Namib Desert – the Welwitschia. Community members – both young and old – came from all over Namibia to march from the Youth Centre in Katutura to town to oppose the plan.
The members expected the Speaker of Parliament to make his appearance at 13h30 and threatened to march to Parliament if he failed to pitch up. Katjivivi arrived a few minutes late and accepted the petition, but refused to respond. The petition stated the needs of the nation to which the funds could be channelled.
The chanting demonstrators accused Katjivivi of ignoring the plight of the electorate. “The decision to construct a new parliament is insensitive and inconsiderate and we, as a nation, want an answer from the government. They were bold enough to implement this incongruous initiative and even had plans set up already, why can they not speak now? As our President said, nobody must feel left out,” said 21-year-old activist Sharon Ashipala. Preliminary designs reveal that the new parliament would be equipped with an amphitheatre, a wellness centre with a pool and a restaurant for politicians. There were also plans to construct a multi-million-dollar parliamentary village to house MPs who do not have accommodation in the capital. That plan was later abandoned. The lawmakers’ surge for opulence while the rest of the nation drowns in poverty has sent shockwaves among the citizens, a situation that led to the June 16 movement spearheaded by AR.
“The money must be redirected to schools, hospitals, water and drought, housing and all the other provisions which are a priority. We expect the speaker to respond to us within one month. If there is a response or a failure to respond we will determine our next course of action,” said Job Amupanda, leader of AR. The citizens, who stood in long queues for elections to democratically elect leaders to deliver to their hopes urged the speaker and the entire parliament to put the needs of the nation first, but the state did not have a response, said Jennilee Kohima, spokesperson of AR. Katjavivi did not indicate when he will respond to the concerns contained in the petition. He also did not answer his mobile phone when called late yesterday for clarity on his initial refusal to address the group.