Presidential Affairs Minister, Frans Kapofi, and Finance Minister, Calle Schlettwein’s decision to break tradition and publically go against Cabinet’s decision to allow for the tabling of the time change Bill in the National Assembly has sparked debate among ruling party ministers and MPs.
Their opposing views to some parts of the Bill come despite President Hage Geingob publicly reprimanding Cabinet members last year. Geingob said at the time that Cabinet members must support any decision agreed upon in Cabinet. He said they can disagree within the Cabinet chamber but once a decision is passed collectively it must be supported by all.
The diverging views of Cabinet members in parliament also exposes the ruling party’s caucus processes in parliament.
Just a few days before Iivula-Ithana tabled the Time Bill in the National Assembly, this publication questioned the ruling party’s secretary general Nangolo Mbumba about the frequency of Swapo caucuses at parliament to avoid members clashing in public.
He responded: “We cannot have a caucus until items are on the agenda to discuss and guide for the ministers to explain what they intend to do. We have caucuses for the National Assembly and for the National Council and we have joint caucuses for all Swapo members.”
Efforts to get hold of SWAPO’s chief whip Evelyn Nawases-Tayele proved furtile as her mobile phone went unanswered.
Iivula-Ithana’s allies in Cabinet say the move to publicly criticise a collective Cabinet decision is questionable and appears to be aimed at embarrassing her.
Kapofi denied targeting Iivula-Ithana or having any sinister motives.
“My intervention has nothing to do with an individual because I have no personal vendetta. I was discussing an issue brought to the house for debate on my own, to me that is not personal, those who think like that know why they want to think that way.
“What I said is my personal view that I expressed and I will continue to express my views on issues raised when they come on the floor to be debated. I am matured enough to know the implications of Cabinet’s collective responsibility,” he said.
Pendukeni’s déjà vu
This is not the first time a Bill related to her ministry was publicly ridiculed by the very people who voted for it to be tabled in Parliament.
Last year, President Hage Geingob distanced himself from government’s move to amend the constitution to change citizenship requirement, or change the Citizenship Act following a Supreme Court ruling compelling government to award citizenship to a child born by two non-Namibian parents, who were in the country on work permits.
Ruling party sources complained that they felt Geingob used the Citizenship Bill to score points over Iivula-Ithana, who is believed to be contemplating launching a second attempt to run for Swapo’s president position at this year’s elective congress.
Iivula-Ithana’s allies felt Geingob publically reprimanded the home affairs minister and accused her of misleading him, while the decision was taken collectively by Cabinet. The move was seen as aimed at undermining her popularity.
The Patriot understands that after the Supreme Court ruling, a top secret meeting was held by Geingob, Iivula-Ithana, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and her deputy Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah.
This meeting allegedly discussed and decided that government must do something to circumvent the court ruling. As the minister affected, Iivula-Ithana then started working on the various options for government. Afterwards the Swapo Politburo also discussed the issue and it too was in agreement with the plan to change the law. Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba was allegedly tasked to make sure the party supports the move, while Kuugongelwa-Amadhila was tasked to ensure government implements the changes.
Iivula-Ithana then presented the proposal to change the constitution to both the deliberative Cabinet chaired by Kuugongelwa-Amadhila and the decision making Cabinet chaired by Geingob.
The Bill was also dealt with by the Cabinet committee on legislation.
Both bodies after debating the issue agreed to change the constitution and Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who is responsible for government business in the National Assembly, was tasked with tabling the proposed constitutional changes in Parliament.
Geingob allegedly then backtracked on the decision and instructed that the changes should rather be done to the Citizenship Act.
It was not the first time Geingob took issue with Iivula-Ithana.
Last year around March, at a Politburo meeting, Geingob allegedly had an outburst and accused Iivula-Ithana of sabotaging the party’s case against then expelled youth leaders, Elijah Ngurare, George Kambala, Dimbulukeni Nauyoma and Job Amupanda.
Iivula-Ithana allegedly refused to sign an affidavit prepared by Swapo’s deputy legal secretary Pohamba Shifeta to strengthen Swapo’s case.
In that Politburo meeting, she allegedly told Geingob that information contained in the said affidavit was inaccurate and that it would constitute perjury if she was to sign it in the format presented by Shifeta. She allegedly also presented her facts to the Politburo at the time.
Iivula-Ithana, was head of a committee tasked to negotiate with Nauyoma, Kambala and Amupanda in the ruling party and government’s bid to avert AR’s planned July 31 land grabbing, last year.
Some senior party members who are irked by Kapofi and Schlettwein’s move to break rank with a collective decision by Cabinet want the party to take action against the two ministers to set an example.
“This just shows that the party’s parliamentary caucus is in shambles. The Chief Whip should take more control over issues and save the party from embarrassment. You see in the South African parliament, when the ANC brings a Bill to the house it is supported by all ANC MPs, but here it is a different case. It is quite embarrassing if you ask me,” the source said.
The two ministers publicly criticised the Bill, after it was tabled in Parliament and in Kapofi’s case equating the Bill to wanting to bring back apartheid practices.