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Democracy Report

Week in Review: September 19-22

Swapo blocks debate on Land Resettlement.

No new bills this week in the National Assembly – but lots of action nevertheless.

The controversy happened last Tuesday, as Swapo blocked a motion on Land Resettlement. You might have read about it in the news.

The motion was tabled by Usutuaije Maamberua, the president of SWANU, and reads in full:

That this Assembly –
Discusses and debates the status of the implementation process of the Resettlement Policy, looking at the criteria, process, responsible bodies and the list of people who have been resettled since independence to date, and challenges and successes experienced thus far, in order to improve on the resettlement process.

That this Motion be referred to the relevant Parliamentary Standing Committee for further scrutiny and advice.

Swapo MPs objected to the motion going forward, most notably the Minister of Land and Resettlement, Utoni Nujoma. Almost all Swapo MPs voted against the motion going forward, while most of the opposition voted to discuss it.

This is not the first time this year that the National Assembly (and specifically the speaker, Peter Katjavivi), was criticised for not letting debate happen on a specific issue. In June, the Speaker blocked a motion on the SME bank, noting that Parliament’s rules do not allow for the discussion of matters that are before the court. But that rule exists for a reason (it could seem that Parliament wants to influence the court case if it discusses an issue), and in this case, the motion was decisively voted down – there was nothing he could do here.

The bigger question is why the ruling party was so reluctant to discuss this issue. Minister Nujoma said it was a “waste of time and resources” as the land conference, and land bill, would offer plenty of space for discussion on this matter. But on an issue as important as land, surely more discussion is a good thing? After all, the government postponed the land conference precisely because there has not been enough consultation yet. So why block consultations in Parliament, an institution designed with the explicit purpose to debate the most important issues facing the nation?

22 September 2017