Opposition MPs fume over virtual address

Maria Hamutenya

Drama ensued in Parliament on Tuesday after President Hage Geingob officially opened Parliament remotely, a position which did not go down well with members of the opposition.

The development resulted in opposition party members walking out of the National Assembly Chamber arguing that they have not been consulted about the President addressing them virtually.

Popular Democratic Movement leader, McHenry Venaani, said COVID-19 cannot be viewed as an unforeseen circumstance, because arrangements were made and how many people should be in the house to accommodate the President.

“Why did the President not come? That it is threatening [to] our democracy to hear that the President of your own country is afraid to come on the floor of his own column. He must come and face the people’s representatives, whether they like him or dislike him, whether they respect him or disrespecting, the laws are very clear and that is why we walked out,” he said.

Venaani said appropriate measures will be taken by his party to ensure that the President addresses parliament in person.

“There are two processes to ensure that virtual addressing is not repeated again. That is eligibility could be subpoenaed by court order to come to Parliament, or letters could be written to him. Otherwise, the processes of impeachment will be pursued on the ground that the President does not respect the legislature,” Venaani said.

Landless People Movement (LPM) Spokesperson, Uutara Mootu, also added that the President used the pre-recorded video to shy away from certain issues the party expected to receive clarity on.

“It’s disrespectful in the sense that there [was] technical sabotage in the Parliament chambers, our MPs could not even speak through the mic. We could not say anything, we tried to press the button to be given a chance to speak but the sound system was off and these are things that have never happened, but during this day it has happened,” said Mootu.

She added that tax payers’ money had gone to waste after security was doubled at Parliament with the pretence that the President was going to come.

“Police officers even harassing some opposition MPs and all that for a zoom meeting, we felt it was a disrespect for the nation and for people who want answers,” she said.

“We take it as an act of guilt and lack of accountability from his cabinet, from his leadership as the fact [is] that we were going to ask him questions, him being the president of SWAPO party. He had to answer as to why his party was implicated in fishrot. We take this as an act of guilt, that the President is guilty of something and that he is trying to run away from Parliament,” said Mootu.

Prime Minister Sara Kuugongelwa Amadhila, however, defended the President’s action regarding his absence stating that, “there is no violation that has been committed by the President opening Parliament virtually.”

“I am not aware of any provision of any law that states that the President should be physically present to make an address. Even if the President wanted to deliver the State of the Nation address from the State House, he can still interact with us virtually, there is nothing in the law that prevents that,” said Amadhila.

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