Various representatives from Government Ministries held briefing sessions with Members of Parliament today, 9 August 2022. The meetings were for MPs to be sensitized and given the gist of the proposed amendments to Bills that were referred from the National Assembly to the National Council for review.
First up, was the Ministry of Industrialization and Trade, represented by Ms. Diina Nashidengo, Acting Deputy Executive Director, Mr. Josef Mwapopi Shikongo, Deputy Director for Weights, Measures and Standards, Mr. Simasiku Matali, Section Head of Scientific and Industrial Metrology at Namibia Standards Institution and Ms. Maama Uahupirapi, Economist in the Ministry. In presenting the Metrology Bill [B.9 – 2021], Mr. Matali stressed the importance of having credible metrology that would encompass aspects of health, safety and the protection of the environment. Matali stated that previous legislation did not cater for these factors and was largely focused on trade alone. He thus noted the importance of establishing new frameworks to expound metrology in order to safeguard the added components of health, safety and environmental protection. The Members welcomed the notion of the Bill as was presented. Vice Chairperson, Hon. Victoria Kauma urged tertiary institutions to produce students who will be qualified to implement and deliver the work that would be required should this Bill be passed.
The next briefing was from the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, represented by its Deputy Minister, Hon. Emma Theofelus, who presented the Access to Information Bill [B.4 – 2020]. In opening, the Deputy Minister noted that government institutions are not well-capacitated to share information with the public and that is what the Bill primarily is seeking to address. “The Bill will address the right to information, particularly for Civil Society Organizations. In addition, it will look into how information can be stored and managed in ways that will not deny or delay citizens access,” said Hon. Theofelus. In his response, Hon. Paulus Mbangu stated that it was challenging to discuss a Bill in the absence of regulations. He further noted that a Bill should be read together with the regulations that will enforce such law in order to make sure that the regulations are not abused.
The final briefing was with the Ministry of Justice, represented by Executive Director, Ms. Felicity !Owoses. Two Bills, namely the Combating of Rape Amendment Bill [B.2 – 2022] and Combating of Domestic Violence Amendment Bill [B.1 – 2022], were under discussion. Ms !Owoses mainly highlighted the key proposed amendments, including revised minimum sentences for offenders, issuance of protection orders and the different categories of rape. MPs concerns to the Bills were varied, including the enforcement of protection orders in rural areas, revisiting cultural values to address the scourge of rape and the possibility of the consideration of traditional or customary practices in dealing with rape cases. Under the concept of mens rea, a legal term for criminal intent, the Members stated that although ignorance of the law cannot be used as an excuse to commit a crime, such factors must be considered as categories under the criminal chargers when such unfortunate cases occur in societies where particular accepted practices in those societies are in contravention of the law.
The briefing sessions are a series of meetings aimed at equipping and preparing Members to better understand and dissect the main issues and principle of the Bills that are before them for review, in order for them to make more informed contributions. Equally, the opportunity also allows for Ministries to take up the concerns raised for consideration.