Laws are a system of rules that everyone in a country or society recognises as regulating the actions of its members and which can be enforced by the imposition of penalties. The purpose of laws is to maintain peace and order within a country.
The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia is the supreme law in the country. No Namibian law may contradict the Namibian Constitution.
The Cabinet, a Line Ministry or Government Department, a Member of Parliament (MP), a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), or any private citizen can propose a law. In the case of a Government Bill, the responsible Ministry must draft a proposal and submit it to Cabinet for approval.
Once verified by the Attorney General as in line with the Namibian Constitution, approved by Cabinet and tabled before Parliament, the draft is called a Bill. A Bill tabled by a Member of Parliament who is not a Minister, is called a Private Member’s Bill, and needs no Cabinet approval.
The Bill is introduced in the National Assembly (NA) in what is known as a First Reading Stage. It then becomes a public document and available to any member of the public who is interested in it.
During the Second Reading Stage the Minister or the Private Member who tabled (sponsored) the Bill explains why the Bill is needed.
Members then discuss the principle of the Bill and may approve or reject the Bill in principle, that is whether the Bill is necessary or not. If rejected by a majority of the Members, the Bill is taken ‘off the table’. It may be re-introduced within 30 days with or without changes.
If its principle is approved, the details of the Bill are then discussed during what is called the Committee Stage by the Committee of the Whole Assembly where all MPs consider it clause by clause. During the Committee Stage any Member may propose an amendment to a clause which is then discussed and voted on. If there are serious objections, the Bill can either be voted on or be referred to a Standing Committee. Standing Committees are smaller groups of Members of Parliament elected from all political parties to examine Bills and other documents in detail.
Standing Committees are appointed for specific subject matters such as economics, human resources and International Relations or any subject matter necessary or required. Committees seek input from experts and the broader public by calling in individual persons or by holding public hearings. Based on its findings, a Committee may recommend changes on specific aspects of the Bill to the House. Committees are not considering or mandated to pronounce themselves on the principle of the Bill.
Once the National Assembly adopts the recommendations, the Bill goes to the Third Reading Stage. At this stage a majority vote of the House is necessary to approve the Bill and no further debate is allowed.
The Bill is then referred to the National Council for review. The legislative stages followed in the National Council are the same as those in the National Assembly.
If the National Council passes the Bill with amendments, it goes back to the National Assembly for further discussion. However, the National Assembly is not compelled to adopt the amendments proposed by the National Council. If, after reconsideration, the Members of the National Assembly reject the amendments of the National Council, the proposed amendments are disregarded.
The Bill must be signed by the President of the Republic before it becomes a law. It is then published in the official Government newspaper – the Government Gazette – as an Act of Parliament. The law comes into force either on the date of publication of the Government Gazette or a specific date to be published in the Government Gazette by the Minister responsible for that Act of Parliament.