Namibia: Spy bill debate starts in NA

THE new Communications Bill promotes a view that the citizens of Namibia cannot be trusted, although citizens are expected to trust Government to lead and rule the country and protect their rights, DTA Secretary General McHenry Venaani said in the National Assembly yesterday.

Venaani was the first speaker in the debate after the bill was tabled in Parliament last week.

The bill should be rejected in this current form because it contains clauses to undermine the sacred values of freedom and to allow the interception of citizens in their bedrooms in the name of national security, Venaani argued.

The bill threatens freedom of thought, conscience and belief that might be communicated through e-mails, SMSes, letters and telephonic conversations, he said, comparing it to laws in Zimbabwe.

Deputy Justice Minister Utoni Nujoma protested.He charged that the bill did not infringe on peoples rights.

Once a member of Swapo says something he is already insulted in the media, infringing on his right to freedom of expression. All the bill says is in the case of danger communications could be traced with interception centre proposed in the Bill, Nujoma contended.

Venaani argued that the Bill stipulates that all communications must be available to interception centres 24 hours a day. That is not good for the political climate in Namibia, he said.

Swapo will rule forever, interjected Deputy Gender Equality and Child Welfare Minister Angelika Muharukua.

This angered Venaani. You need the interception centres to rule forever! he retorted.

Nujoma rose again. We dont want the bill linked to Zimbabwe. The situation in Zimbabwe was different (before the unity government). Zanu(PF) members were also beaten. The overriding factor in our new bill is the security of our country.

Venaani lashed out in the direction of Nujoma: Today you beat up RDP members!

Henk Mudge of the Republican Party (RP) said the spy clause in the new bill was not good. What is wrong with the National Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) Act of 1997, was it not sufficient 12 years ago? he asked.

This spy bill will remind the nation of AG 8 and 9 Proclamations of 1989 before Independence, Mudge said.

Deputy Finance Minister Tjekero Tweya criticised Mudge for calling the draft legislation a spy bill and demanded that Mudge withdraw that phrase, but Mudge ignored him.

Part Six of the bill is in conflict with the Namibian Constitution which guarantees the right to privacy, Mudge added.

If the bill is passed in this form, that might be challenged in a court, Mudge said.

The RP does not support this bill.

Prime Minister Nahas Angula said the contentious section of the new bill could not be read in isolation but together with other laws passed earlier, including the NCIS Act of 1997.

In that law interception is allowed under certain conditions and we as lawmakers passed that law 12 years ago. The new bill provides how to intercept.

Mudge said it was not clear to him why no reference was made in the new bill to the existing NCIS Act.

The Prime Minister said there was room for improvement on that particular point.

The Bill only stipulates that interceptions should be made with regard to crime and national security, he added.

But the people are worried, Mudge interjected.

Angula said a warrant from a High Court judge would be needed before communications could be intercepted.

Nora Schimming-Chase (CoD) asked why that had to be included in the Communications Bill. Why was there not just an amendment done to the NCIS Act? she asked.

I agree that there should have been a clear cross-reference to existing laws, the Prime Minister responded.

This bill gives the equipment to intercept. The right to intercept was given 12 years ago in the NCIS Act. We were overtaken by our emotions, let us deal with each clause, he urged.

The debate continues.
The Namibian

Post published in: Zimbabwe News

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