The Speaker presides over the sittings of Parliament, and enforces the rules prescribed in its Standing Orders for the orderly execution of parliamentary business. In carrying out their duties, Speakers must at all material times remain impartial and fair to all MPs irrespective of their political affiliation.
Other functions of the Speaker include directing MPs to withdraw remarks, suspending the sitting of the House due to serious disorder and suspending MPs who are deliberately disobedient.
Despite it being clear that he should not favour any political party and that his ruling must be in the interest of the nation, Speaker of our own National Assembly Professor Peter Katjavivi has made some questionable decisions in the recent weeks that raised eyebrows regarding his impartiality when presiding over the affairs of the legislature.
We ran a story last week titled “Katjavivi chooses Swapo over Namibia”, something he obviously denied. The past month has seen parliamentary activities being set aside during the Swapo congress campaign to allow Swapo members to tour the country to garner the support of about 766 Swapo delegates. This was done under the pretense that the house was suspended because of “unforeseen circumstances”.
Katjavivi adjourned Parliament more than once during the month of November at the behest of Swapo Party. This he cannot deny.
This is to say, Katjavivi, put the interest of 766 Swapo congress delegates ahead of that of over 2 million Namibians.
A case in point was when Katjavivi adjourned parliament on 14 November to pave way for Swapo parliamentarians to go and campaign for President Hage Geingob’s Team Harambee in Gobabis.
Katjavivi convinced the nation that his decision was premised on what he termed “unforeseen circumstances”. On 21 November, Katjavivi again adjourned Parliament. This did not sit well with leaders of Namibia’s opposition parties, who are victims of Katjavivi’s actions.
At Congress, Katjavivi sided with Team Harambee, thus it is only logical to conclude that he acted to advance his own political interest.
This was definitely not unforeseen but a deliberate act from the Speaker as per directives of Swapo Party to which Katjavivi is a senior member.
One of the opposition leaders called on Katjavivi to step down as Speaker if his interest was to promote activities of the Swapo Party at all cost and any given opportunity, cannot be blamed for making such a proposition.
“If Katjavivi’s interest was to promote Swapo at all cost and to the detriment of parliament, then he must simply resign from parliament and take up a full time position at Swapo Headquarters. Parliament needs someone who can stand up for parliament and whose main purpose is to protect and promote the interest of parliament without fear or favour,” were the sentiments of Rally for Democracy and Progress lawmaker, Mike Kavekotora.
In light of his recent actions, Katjavivi is somewhat a conflicted individual who is partial and unable to apply the House’s Standing Rules and Orders equally. But being a seasoned diplomat with a high pedigree of ethics, one refuses to swallow such a notion. In the public eye, Katjavivi portrays himself as an impartial Speaker who at all material times demonstrates his independence “in fact and in appearance”.
In defence of Katjavivi, secretary of the National Assembly justifies the latter’s actions by saying Swapo Party activities clashed with that of Parliament. “The SWAPO 6th Congress and the 6th Session of the Sixth Parliament have coincidentally clashed in the month of November 2017, and this is not by doing of the Hon Speaker,” reads a section of a statement by Lydia Kandetu.
She forgot that Katjavivi is a member of the Swapo CC which dictates when the Swapo congress should take place, he could have proposed a different date. However, what the Secretary fails to highlight is the fact that when the two clashed, Katjavivi chose Swapo over Parliament (Namibia) as parliamentary activities had to come to a halt to accommodate Swapo’s campaign programme.
According to Kandetu, the fact that opposition parties constitute to “a mere 19 members of 104 MPs” the numbers on the Floor of the House put the quorum in jeopardy, as “more than two-third majority of its members will be out of location either campaigning or attending to (Swapo) congress matters”.
To meet a quorum, there should be 26 voting members in Parliament, a figure which the opposition fall short of.
In light of what transpired during the campaign period which culminated into the Swapo elective congress, just like Katjavivi allowed Swapo MPs to go and campaign or show their solidarity to their party, it is our hope that the same opportunity will be accorded to opposition parties.