New twist to PDM parliamentary list fight…as ECN distances self

Andrew Kathindi

Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has washed its hands of the matter of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) parliamentary list.

This comes as Lawyer Norman Tjombe representing PDM members Charmaine Tjirare and Hidipo Hamata, last week, wrote to Parliament, demanding that his clients be recognized and added as elected members of the National Assembly.

When approached for comment, Chief Electoral Officer of the ECN, Theo Mujoro directed all queries regarding the matter to Government Attorney, Mati Asino.

According to Asino the matter regarding the disputed parliamentary list should be sorted internally within the PDM ranks and ECN should not get involved in the scuffle.

“It’s for them to go to court and argue their case and if they need to make an application, they do so. ECN really is just a decision-maker – to accept or not to accept. Why should ECN be hamstrung to decide between one section of the party and the other? If they make their sections, then it’s up to them to decide how to deal with it. ECN is really not interested in their squabble,” he told Windhoek Observer.

He said that a decision to appeal or not would be in the hands of PDM and he would only act on instructions from ECN.

He was however critical of why PDM’s lawyers (Theunissen, Louw & Partners) for the applicants, the current parliamentarians Esmeralda !Aebes, Johannes Martin, Kazeongere Tjeundo, Geoffrey Mwilima, Timotheus Shihumbu and Pieter Mostert took so long to file an appeal. They hinted that they may have to accept the High Court ruling that was delivered earlier this year. That ruling stated that PDM members Tjirare, Reggie Diergaardt, Frans Bertolini, Yvette Araes, Mike Venaani and Tjekupe Maximilliant Katjimune should be sworn in as the legitimate members of parliament.

“It depends on PDM and their lawyers. I don’t know what their lawyers were waiting to do. The rules are very clear, you have three months to file your appeal, if you don’t file, it will lapse. I don’t know which argument they will bring. Because of COVID, because of lockdown, maybe there’s something that they can bring.”

He added, “If it lapsed, it lapsed. According to the rules, if you don’t file your things on time, your appeal will lapse. I have not seen that letter yet, so I cannot comment on it. I need to get instructions from ECN and then I can look into it. Let’s just wait for them to come. Then I can see the letter and see what the position they are taking is and we can give advice.”

PDM leader McHenry Venaani told Windhoek Observer that neither the party nor its lawyers have received Tjombe’s letter

“Be that as it may, there is an appeals process going on and that is where we are going to litigate; not on the street and in the media. We are not interested in influencing the legal process and outcome of the appeal through the media. Sound legal arguments must prevail at the point of moving the appeal in the Supreme Court,” he said.

He further added, “As such the PDM position remains the same: that unless the Supreme Court makes an anterior determination, our legitimate Members of Parliament are currently serving in parliament and are doing a stellar job for the democracy of our republic.”

According to the Supreme Court letter to Theunissen, Louw & Partners in possession of Windhoek Observer, it states that procedurally and subsequent to the filling of the notice of appeal, rule 8 provides for the manner and time period for the filing of the record of appeal depending on what the appeal lies against.

“Our records reflect that the appellant has not complied with rule 8(2) in that up to date no record of appeal was filed by the appellant. Further to this, our office did not receive correspondence of consent as provided for by rule 8(2) (c), and in light of the failure on the part of the appellant, the appeal is deemed to be withdrawn,” reads the letter.

National Assembly Spokesperson David Nahongandja confirmed to Windhoek Observer that Parliament had received Tjombe’s letter, but however, stated that the process of swearing-in members only takes place once the National Assembly has received the gazetted names from ECN.

“So far, we have not received any new gazetted names. We advise that you contact ECN on that matter. Should the National Assembly receive the gazetted names from ECN that would mean we must comply with the court order.”

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