Shimbulu welcomes amendments to Electoral Act

Erasmus Shalihaxwe

Former Oshakati mayor, Katrina Shimbulu, has lauded the recommendations by the Law Reform and Development Commission to modify the Electoral Act of 2014. This Act led to her resignation in 2019, and she currently remains unemployed.

The Law Reform and Development Commission recently presented a report to the Minister of Justice, Yvonne Dausab, who in turn submitted it to Parliament for evaluation.

, Acting Deputy Chairperson of the Commission, proposed amendments to the Electoral Act of 2014 (Act no 5). These amendments suggest that candidates nominated for Parliament be given leave instead of forcing their resignation. The Commission also called for a review of Article 46 of the Namibian Constitution.

The Commission holds that the proposed modifications to Article 46 (1)(a) of the Constitution, coupled with changes to the Electoral Act, 2014 (Act No. 5 of 2014), will provide vital safeguards to the electoral process. This change will uphold the constitutional right outlined in Article 17 for citizens to engage in political activities and run for public office.

Stressing the inherent unpredictability of elections and the deterrent effect of the present interpretation of the Electoral Act, the Commission stressed the importance of political participation rights and the aspiration to serve in public roles.

The Commission stated, “Such an interpretation views the exercise of rights in Article 17 as a gamble, compelling individuals to balance potential success against the threat of job loss. This requires a careful examination of the broader implications, keeping in mind the spirit and intent of the Constitution.”

Shimbulu expressed her support for the recommendations, citing the widespread confusion they might alleviate for many who aspire to further their political careers in Parliament. These individuals often hesitate, fearing job loss.

“If the law mandates my resignation and I don’t secure a Parliamentary seat, I’d be left unemployed. In a democratic system, participating in elections and not winning a seat should still allow for a return to one’s prior position. I am wholly in favour of this amendment,” Shimbulu said.

She further argued for a more flexible law that accommodates all, particularly those aiming to serve in prominent public roles as a part of career growth. After serving local authority governance for years, she believes it’s time for a more elevated political role.

“At present, I’m essentially a farmer and unemployed, with no ongoing tasks. If I were to re-enter public service, I’d prefer a Parliament seat over a local authority council position. I’ve served in that domain for nearly 27 years. Though I consider myself adept in local governance, I don’t wish to revisit the same responsibilities repeatedly,” Shimbulu declared.

In October 2019, the Electoral Commission of Namibia decreed that public service members and those in local and regional councils resign upon their nomination as National Assembly candidates.

This directive resulted in several resignations, especially from the Swapo party, with candidates hoping to join the National Assembly. Unfortunately, a number of them, including Shimbulu, didn’t achieve a parliamentary position and subsequently found themselves without jobs.

Other significant resignations came from regional councillors such as Margareth Mensah-Williams of Khomasdal, Hilma Nicanor of Keetmanshoop Urban, Hafeni Ndemula from Walvis Bay Urban, Modestus Amutse of Oshikuku, and Phillipus Katamelo of the Gobabis constituency.

Local authority councillors who stepped down included Verna Sinimbo (Rundu), Maria Elago (Swakopmund), and Hilaria Mukapuli (Lüderitz).

Article 47 (1) (e) of the Constitution specifies that salaried members of Namibia’s public service, or those affiliated with the National Council, regional councils, or local authorities, cannot become members of the National Assembly. Article 47 (1) (f) similarly prohibits the National Council, regional councils, or local authority members from joining the National Assembly.

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