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Sunday 20 January 2019
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Secrecy shrouds electoral commissioners’ nominations

commissionersThe Citizens for an Accountable and Transparent Society (CATS) is disappointed with the route taken by officials to nominate electoral commissioners without informing the media or the public at large. “Why was the public, the electorate and the media left in the dark? Why is there still no transparency about this extra-ordinary process? The public and especially the electorate and registered political parties and associations have the right to know! Because this is one of the first phases in the electoral cycle for the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections as well as the 2020 Regional Councils and Local Authorities elections,” said CATS director Carola Engelbrecht. She said the provisions leading up to the appointment of commissioners have always been followed, even under the previous Electoral Act (Act 24 of 1992 as amended) although at times timelines were not adhered to and consequently amendments were gazetted. “However, this time around, the public and the media as well as members of the National Assembly, were completely left in the dark. When no advertisement appeared in the newspapers pertaining to the public interviews of short-listed applicants, I started to phone around to enquire. However, those who should be in the know were just as puzzled as I was,” she lamented.
Engelbrecht said she contacted the office of the acting Secretary to the National Assembly, who – according to the Electoral Act – is the person whose duty it is to call the public interview session. “However, Mr Findley Harker, the (acting) Secretary to the National Assembly advised me through his personal assistant that I should contact the Director of Legal Services at the National Assembly, who referred me back to Mr Harker,” she said. Section 6 (14) of the Electoral Act of 2014 empowers a registered voter to object in writing to any of the short-listed applicants at any time before the public interviews of the applicants are conducted.  “I am a registered voter, who now has been disenfranchised by the clandestine process which ensued when Section 6(23) of the Electoral Act was invoked,” she complained. According to Section 6(23) of the electoral laws: “If the Secretary to the National Assembly, for any reason, fails to comply with subsection (3) or (5); the Selection Committees, for any reason, fails to comply with subsection (16); or for any reason, any of the meetings convened in terms of subsection (5) of (10), does not take place or is not finalised,  the President may, on the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Privileges of the National Assembly, appoint the members of the Commission as contemplated in Section (1).”
The law only makes provision for the section to be invoked under extreme circumstances.  “What all those with whom I spoke (including members of the National Assembly) would like to know is, what extreme circumstances forced the Standing Committee on Privileges to step in?” she questioned. What was so out-of-the-ordinary that the Secretary to the National Assembly was unable to convene a meeting of the selection committee? What circumstances made it impossible for the selection committee to do its job? Five institutions are listed from which the selection committee must be established: The law stipulates that the chairperson of the Public Service Commission must chair the selection committee, joined by the Law Society of Namibia’s chairperson of the Public Accountants’ and Auditors’ Board, Registrar of the High Court of Namibia and the Director of Namibia Qualifications Authority.
“Why was Section 6(23) included in the new Electoral Act in the first place? Namibia did well without it for 22 years (1992-2014). One cannot help but speculate. It certainly is not supportive of the first pillar of the much cited Harambee Prosperity Plan, namely Effective Governance Built on Accountability and Transparency, which in turn refers to Access to Public Information,” she said. National Assembly officials were not available to comment by the time of going to press. The Patriot last week broke the story that the parliamentary committee tasked to nominate eight persons who will serve as electoral commissioners for the next five years had selected their preferred eight electoral commissioners.  From the 37 applications, the committee selected eight nominees – opting to reappoint five of the incumbent commissioners.
The committee that was headed by National Assembly Speaker Professor Peter Katjavivi decided to reappoint Ulrich Freyer, Nespect Salom, Barney Karuuombe, Notemba Tjipueja and Albertina Nangolo. The additional members are Elsie Nghikembua, Lischen Ramakhutla and Moses Ikanga. All these nominations are, however, still subject to President Hage Geingob’s approval. According to the list of applicants which this publication has obtained, some of those who applied to be appointed as commissioners include former Road Fund Administration CEO Penda Kiiyala, Oshikuku Town Council CEO Julia Kakwambi-Nakale, Namibia Broadcasting Corporation’s Head of Legal Services and Company Secretary Steven Ndorokaze and former personal assistant to the National Assembly Speaker Simon Uirab.




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