Parliament of Namibia

HISTORY

Introduction
Parliament is a neutral place where legislators meet to talk, discuss and consult frankly with each other on political, social and economic issues and their legal implications to society. It consist of elected and/or nominated representatives responsible for making and changing laws of the country.
Namibia has passed from an era in which the law making processes were communal, and through colonial rule where laws and administrative decisions making were totally in the hands of the colonising countries.
The laws that were passed by the colonisers were then imposed on Namibians.

The country went through a struggle for the liberation led by SWAPO which culminated in its Independence in 1990, when a parliament that is truly representative of the Namibian people was established, based on the results of general elections. However, the traditional law making process that was suppressed during the colonial period survived and the result of this historical development is the two legal systems namely, customary and statutory laws that exist side by side in Namibia today.

Pre-colonial period
The common names of traditional institutions of law making were /abe-/haos in Khoekhhoegowab (Nama), Oshoongalelo in Oshiwambo, Ombungarero in Otjiherero, Kgotla in Setswana, Khuta in Silozi, to name but a few . These earlier, councils existed and functioned on the basis of the society’s demands and needs. Their main functions were to lay down the basic rules for sharing resources, demarcating boundaries, fostering neighbourhood relations, negotiating peace treaties and overseeing system of beliefs, including taboos.
According to the Councils of Khoe-Khoe group debates on normative related issues, war and peace, migration and ratification of treaties were carried out by the Council.
But, important political and administrative matters were often referred to a General People’s Assembly. Such structures were not limited to Khoe-Khoen, as oral sources maintained that similar trends existed within other communities in Namibia. 

Some of the Traditional Councils were headed by the Chief, Captain or King. Besides, the Captain, King or Chief , the Council was the second component of government. There were also the Councils of Elders which acted as checks and balances on the despotism of the chief , king or captain and their Councils. It is recorded that in some communities the Council threatened their Captain with demotion because of alcoholic behaviour and in other circumstances he was given a good hiding. Sometimes the Captain or King was completely sidelined by his councilors. 
Meetings of the Council usually took place under a tree near the Captain, King or Chief’s house. The members of the Traditional Council sat in a circle during their meetings. The Captain , Chief or King always opened and chaired the meetings.
The person having the floor stood up and went to speak in the middle of the circle.
During a meeting , the most senior people usually spoke last, particularly the Captain, King or Chief who usually joined the majority. Only adult married men were allowed to be members of the Council. It should also be mentioned that those who did not hold office were allowed to attend Council meetings and they usually sat outside the circle of the Council members. They were allowed to participate in the debate but not in the decision making. Women and children attended at a greater distance from the Council meeting. The Council was also the supreme court of law among the communities .

It had the double function of passing laws and administering justice. According to oral sources , there was an unlimited freedom of speech and duration of speeches. A general People’s Assembly meeting could last for days or even weeks.

German colonial period
Namibia was colonised by the Germans from 1884 until 1915, when it lost the colony as a result of defeat in the First World War. During this period the territory was renamed German South West Africa and German law was applicable in the territory. While the German Government created a settler parliament (the Landesrat) , without any representation of the colonised people , it did not have legislative authority. Its function was merely to make recommendations on legislative and administrative matters to the Emperor, the Colonial Ministry and to the Governor.

South Africa colonial period
In 1915 , Namibia was conquered by South Africa which later succeeded to obtain the League of Nation’s mandate over it. South Africans imposed a military government which ruled by decree. As from 1920 , South Africa begun its colonial activities under the Mandate. South African laws were made applicable to Namibia, and while the colonial power again established a settler parliament (the ‘Legislative Assembly’) , in 1926. This body , contrary to its name did not have any legislative power , and Namibians remained excluded.
When the National Party took over power in South Africa 1948 , it proceeded to implement different phases of the apartheid policy in Namibia , and even tried annexing Namibia as a fifth province to South Africa. As this policy met with growing internal and international resistance , the strategy changed to various attempts to create a pseudo-independent state under continued South African control.
To this end, various ‘constitutional conferences’, ‘parliaments’ and ‘ governments’ were installed which had one thing in common, that is, they were neither legitimised by free general elections, nor had their decisive power to rule the country. The supreme authority remained in the hands of an Administrator-General appointed by the South African government.

Namibia's Independence
Namibia’s Independence came through a long struggle for liberation by the Namibian people organised through SWAPO and supported by the international community. As from April 1989 , the United Nations Resolution 435 of 1978 was finally implemented paving the way for elections to create the Constituent Assembly.

The UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) supervised the nation’s first free and fair elections, leading to independence. During the transitional period, the South African Administrator General continued to govern the country, but had to work closely with the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General to ensure an orderly transition to independence.
Before the elections, each political party that wanted to participate for leadership had to be registered. This made it recognised by the electoral authorities as an official political party. Each official political party drew up a list of members whom it nominated as candidates for the Constituent Assembly. This list was also submitted to the electoral authority. In November 1989, the first ever general elections took place in Namibia.
Registered voters cast their secret ballots, directly voting for the party of their choice. The number of votes each party received determined the number of seats that party secured in the Constituent Assembly , thus, the number of its representatives. SWAPO won a majority of 41 seats, followed by DTA 21, UDF 4, ACN3, NPF 1, FCN 1 and NNF 1 in the Constituent Assembly.

FUNCTIONS OF PARLIAMENT
The Parliament of Namibia consists of the National Assembly and the National Council, together forming the Legislature arm of Government.
Parliament is the law making body of the Namibian government and it is responsible for the allocation of money needed by the executive for its various services and exercises an oversight role over the government. The Parliament of Namibia is a bicameral system consisting of two houses: the 72 voting member National Assembly, elected for a term of five years on the basis of proportional representation, plus an additional six nonvoting members appointed by the president. 

The National Council was formed in accordance with chapter eight of the Namibian Constitution, on February 1993, after the regional elections held in November 1992. The Regional Councils Act, Act 22 of 1992 is a result of a Constitutional provision. The National Council consist of 26-members, elected for a term of six years, from each of the 13 geographic regions. The National Council reviews bills passed by the National Assembly and recommends legislation on matters of regional concern for submission to and consideration by the National Assembly. Article 63 and 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia clearly outlines the wide ranging functions and powers of the two Houses of Parliament.

Constituent Assembly
In the Assembly led by representatives from SWAPO, all the citizens were represented by those parties whom they voted for in the first general elections. The Constituent Assembly :

(i) Drafted the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia and adopted it on the 9th February 1990;
(ii) Determined the date of Independence as the 21 March 1990;
(iii) Elected the President, His Excellency Dr. Sam Nujoma.
The President appointed the Ministers whom formed the first Cabinet.
The Chairperson of the Constituent Assembly, Hon. Hage Gaingob, was nominated by the President as the Prime Minister.

The Constituent Assembly Members with some changes by the resignations and the addition of six non voting Members nominated by the President, constituted the first National Assembly.
The voting Members of the National Assembly elected amongst them Hon. Dr. Mose`P. Tjitendero as the Speaker and Hon. Dr. Zephania Kameeta as the Deputy Speaker.
After decades of oppression, war and several years of endless negotiations, Namibian had at last taken control of their country’s destiny and the Republic of Namibia was born on the 21 March 1990.

Constitutional Provision of the Namibian Government
The Government of the Republic of Namibia is formed in terms of the Namibian Constitution. A Bill of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms is the basis of the Constitution.
The Constitution lays down the division of powers of the state between the: Executive, Legislature, Judiciary.

The Executive is responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the country.
Ministers supervise the activities of the different Government Ministries, formulate and explain the actions of the Government to the National Assembly and the public in areas such as, foreign policy, international trade agreements and the annual budget. Government Ministers are appointed from Members of the National Assembly, whereas Deputy Ministers can be appointed from either Chamber. They are both required to attend meetings of their House and inform it about their various activities.

The Executive is headed by the President who is assisted by the Cabinet. The President is elected by direct popular vote for a term of five years and he can be re-elected for a second term of office. However, the first President of independent Namibia was elected by the Constituent Assembly. A number of statutory policy bodies advise the President on relevant matters of the state.

These include the Judicial Service Commission and the National Planning Commission. As established by the Local Authority Act, Act 23 of 1992, decentralisation of the state is further extended to the local and regional authorities that consist of freely elected Regional Councils and Town Councils that function as local units of government. For the utilisation and control of communal land the President is assisted by a Council of Traditional Leaders.

The Legislature is the law making body and allocates money needed by the executive for its various services and exercise control over the government. The system of legislature is bicameral consisting of two houses: the 72 voting member National Assembly, elected for a term of five years on the basis of proportional representation, plus an additional six nonvoting members appointed by the president. The National Council was formed in accordance with chapter eight of the Namibian Constitution, on February 1993, after the regional elections held in November 1992.

The Regional Councils Act, Act 22 of 1992 is a result of the Constitutional provision. The National Council consist of 26-members, elected for a term of six years, from each of the 13 geographic Regions. The National Council reviews bills passed by the National Assembly and recommends legislation on matters of regional concern for submission to and consideration by the National Assembly. Article 63 and 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Namibia clearly outlines the wide ranging functions and powers of the two Houses of Parliament.

The Constitution furthermore empowers Parliament to establish a Namibian Police and Defence Force, the commanders of which are appointed by the President. The Police Act (Act 20 of 1990), to amend the Defence Act (Act 44 of 1957) are the result of the Constitutional provision.

The Judiciary of Namibia is independent body and subject only to the Constitution and the law.

A Supreme Court, a High Court and a number of Magistrate and Lower Courts throughout Namibia share the judicial power. To guard all fundamental rights, the Constitution furthermore provides for the appointment, on recommendations of the Judicial Service Commission, of an Ombudsman to report to the National Assembly on his/her activities in investigating any irregularity or violation of fundamental rights by an organ of state or a private institution. The Constitution further enables the Ombudsman to take action by remedying situations in contravention of the law, by investigation and prosecution.

Coming to terms with the past
Namibia emerged out of a past riddled with successive cycles of conquest, subjecting the country and its people to the worst social, political and economic injustice. The country has been in constant struggle with its conquerors. The population was divided between black and white. The war tore the society further apart. This history could not be brushed away overnight. In the Constituent Assembly, Namibian people from different social, political and economic groupings came together for the first time in Namibian history to draft and adopt the Namibian Constitution. It was a historic moment, when representatives of all Namibian interest came together to act as a Nation and to determine the future of Namibia.

‘’We had to sit together on one table, in one room and to decide on Namibia’s Constitution with our former enemies. Each one of us was expected to contribute productively to the making of Namibia’s Constitution. In order for us to work together as a team, as a Nation, we had to reconcile with one another. It was a very hard experience, but it is very rewarding to see the result of our work. The constitution of the republic of Namibia, is hailed world wide , for its democratic outlook and gender sensitivity": (Hon. Witbooi, Member of the Constituent Assembly). 

He added: "Although I was free to think, the Constituent Assembly was a frightening experience. We were to decide on the future of the Nation, and with every decision we took, we were required to think beyond our individuality, constituency, and ethnicity in order to come up with something Namibian". (Other members of the Constituent Assembly that were interviewed shared to opinions of Hon.Witbooi).

On 9 February 1990, Namibia’s Constitution was unanimously adopted by the 72 members of the Constituent Assembly. The adoption of the Constitution and the attainment of independence brought about a final and peaceful settlement to a protracted international dispute in which Angola, Cuba, South Africa, the Western five an the Soviet Union were directly involved.

The Parliament of the Republic of Namibia, unlike those that existed during the colonial period, is the principal legislative authority in and over Namibia. It is empowered by the Constitution to make and change laws, to maintain law and order, and to ensure good governance of the country in the best interest of the Namibian people.

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