Namibia - Government
Namibia is a multiparty, multiracial democracy, with a president who is elected for 5-year term. The constitution established a bicameral Parliament and provided for general elections every 5 years and regional elections every 6 years. The National Assembly consists of 72 voting members, elected for a term of five years on the basis of proportional representation, plus an additional six non-voting 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.
The three branches of government are subject to checks and balances, and provision is made for judicial review. The judicial structure in Namibia comprises a Supreme Court, the High Court, and lower courts. Roman-Dutch law has been the common law of the territory since 1919. The judicial structure in Namibia parallels that of South Africa. In 1919, Roman-Dutch law was declared the common law of the territory and remains so to the present. Namibia's unitary government has undertaken a process of decentralization.
Partly as a result of achieving independence relatively late, Namibia's constitution is often regarded as a model of up to date legislation. It includes a list of 'fundamental rights and freedoms', and strictures against discrimination of any kind, as well as provision for independent entities – such as an Ombudsman – to protect human rights. The constitution provides for the private ownership of property and for human rights protections, and states that Namibia should have a mixed economy and encourage foreign investment.
The Executive is that branch of the government that sees to it that the laws passed by the National Assembly and National Council are carried out. The Executive powers of Namibia vests with the President and the Cabinet. The President is therefore the head of State and government. He/she is elected by direct franchise in a national election every five years in which he/she must win more than 50% of the votes.
The Cabinet consists of the President, the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers appointed by the President. Together, they implement the policies guided by the constitution and acts of Parliament. The Prime Minister is the Chief Advisor to the President and the overall coordinator of the Government Offices, Ministries and Agencies. Under him/her are Ministers and Deputy Ministers and their staff members who are running different Ministries. At present there are 20 Ministers responsible for Offices, Ministries and Agencies. Ministers must therefore supervise different activities in their respective government Ministries and explain these actions to the National Assembly as well as to the general public.
The Third Constitutional Amendment Bill, passed in August 2014, comprised 40 alterations to the constitution. Notable changes included the size of the legislature, new president-appointed members of parliament, limits on the National Council’s power to review certain bills, and granting of power to the president to appoint the head of the intelligence agency. SWAPO was criticized for rushing passage of the new law, which was seen to be in its favor given its dominant position in politics, in advance of the elections.
In October 2014, the Third Constitutional Amendment was passed, increasing the number of members in Namibia’s bicameral legislature by 40 percent. The amendment also introduced the post of vice president and granted the ruling party the ability to appoint regional governors.
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 on society. It consists of elected and/or nominated representatives responsible for making and changing the laws of the country. Namibia has passed from an eras in which the law-making processes were communal, and colonial rule where laws and administrative decision making were totally in the hands of the colonising countries. The country went through a struggle for liberation 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.
The National Council will be comprised of 42 seats (from 26), with members appointed by regional councils for six-year terms; as of the 2014 elections, the National Assembly is comprised of 96 seats (from 72), filled by popular election for five-year terms using party-list proportional representation. The new amendment also allows the president to appoint 8 nonvoting members to the National Assembly. The president, who is directly elected for a five-year term (and eligible for a second term), also appoints the prime minister and cabinet.
The National Council has the power to consider in terms of Article 75 hereof all bills passes by the National Assembly; investigate and report to the National Assembly on any subordinate legislation, reports and documents which under law must be tabled in the National Assembly and which are referred to it by the National Assembly for advice; recommend legislation on matters of regional concern for submission to and consideration by the National Assembly; perform any other functions assigned to it by the National Assembly or by an Act of Parliament. The National Council is established from Regional Councils,whose elections are based on a first-past-the-post system (winner takes all) after every six years.
The Judiciary In terms of Article 78 of the Constitution, judicial powers are vested in the Courts of Namibia.The judiciary branch is the third branch of Government and it is responsible for the interpretation of the laws of the Country as well as decisions and behavior of State and Government officials. The judiciary includes the Supreme Court (headed by the Chief Justice), the High Court (headed by the Judge President) and the Lower Courts. All the courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution. Judges are appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.
The Courts are independent and subject only to the Constitution and the law. No member of the Cabinet or the Legislative or any other person shall interfere with Judges or Judicial Officers in the exercise of their judicial functions.
The Namibian constitution vests the judicial power in the courts of Namibia, which include the Supreme Court. As the court at the apex of the judicial hierarchy in the country, the Supreme Court is tasked with the constitutional responsibility of hearing and adjudicating appeals from the High Court, including appeals which involve the interpretation, implementation and upholding of the constitution. The Supreme Court is also empowered to deal with matters referred to it for decision by the Attorney General in his or her fulfilment of the constitutional obligation 'to take all action necessary for the upholding and protection of the Constitution'. The court, therefore, functions both as a court of last resort over disputes in all areas of the law as well as an equivalent of a constitutional court.
Article 102 of the Constitution provides that the Country be divided into regional and local units. In keeping with this constitutional requirements, thirteen (13) administrative regions and many other Local Authorities have been established in terms of both Regional Councils Act and Local Authorities Acts of 1992.
In 2013 the names of some regions in Namibia were changed. The Caprivi Region became Zambezi and the Kavango Region was split into West Kavango Region and East Kavango Region.
A common feature in respect of Regional and Local Authority Councils is that they both have substantial fiscal powers and have to adhere to established procedures, systems and regulations in the day to day handling of financial matters. Taxes and levies may be collected in terms of Section 30 and 33 of the Local Authorities Act, 1992 and the Regional Councils Act, 1992 respectively. Each Region has several local governments elected by the Community to take care of the community matters. Cities and urban centers have their own municipal or town bodies that make ordinances to deal with their local issues and have the powers to enforce these ordinances.
Furthermore, all Regional and Local bodies have the power to legislate regarding their own affairs as long as their acts and conduct do not conflict with the overall guidelines in the Constitution. Their laws and acts are subject to judicial review.
Namibia is divided into 14 regions and subdivided into 121 constituencies. Each constituency votes for one councilor for the regional council of each region. There are 14 regional councils, corresponding to the 14 regions of Namibia. Namibia’s Decentralisation Policy was adopted in 1997, but the idea of empowering communities through sharing power and responsibility between national and sub-national governments dates back to the time before independance.
The introduction of decentralisation in Namibia should be viewed against the historical background of the un-democratic and discriminatory form of governance before Independence. At the time, the majority of people did not have the right to make decisions on matters that directly affected their lives, and were not given opportunities to determine their own destiny.
The liberation movement SWAPO saw decentralisation as a means of achieving local democracy and grassroots-level participation in government affairs long before the Independence in 1990. This is demonstrated in the 1988 SWAPO blueprint (UNIN) on governance in the independent Namibia. At Independence, the concept of decentralisation was enshrined in the Constitution, the fundamental law of a sovereign and independent Namibia. The Constitution provides for the establishment of sub-national governments and a system of decentralised government within the confines of a unitary state and national policies, ideals and values.
The next step paving way for a decentralisation was the creation of sub-national governments. They came into being through the enactment of the Regional Councils and Local Authorities Acts in August 1992 and their governing bodies – regional councils, town councils, municipality councils and village councils – became operational after the first regional sub-national elections in December 1992.
In 1996, more than three years after the enactment of the Regional Councils and Local Authorities’ Acts, the Ministry of Regional and Local Government and Housing instituted a review to establish whether decentralisation was on course. It indicated that progress was slower than expected, and that the reform needed a clear policy framework for its implementation.
This prompted the then Minister of Regional and Local Government and Housing, Hon Dr. N. Iyambo to develop a fully fledged and all encompassing decentralisation policy for Namibia. The policy was published in the booklet ‘A Decentralisation Policy for the Republic of Namibia – Decentralisation, Development and Democracy’, in November 1996, and sanctioned by Cabinet on 11 December 1996. (In 1998, the booklet was later followed by ‘The Policy, Its Development and Implementation’.) The Decentralisation Policy was tabled in the National Assembly on 30 September 1997 and unanimously adopted as a national policy for the promotion of equal economic, cultural and socio-economic development and improved public service provision across the country.
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