Namibia: NC passed Spy Bill deliberately

namibia_joel_kaapandaSTAFF members of the National Council have told The Namibian that the passing of the Communications Bill by the council was deliberate and not because of an administrative slip-up, as reported on Friday. (pictured: Information Minister Joel Kaapanda)

The latest development has thrown the much-publicised piece of legislation into yet another controversy.

After being passed by the National Assembly without amendments and referred to the House of Review for final checks, the bill again sailed through without any amendments, despite the council having accepted a report by its own standing committee to introduce changes.

Irate staff members at the council who called The Namibian on Friday said it was not their fault that the controversial bill had been passed without amendments. They claim it was a deliberate move by the MPs to pass the bill without changes.

When the bill was referred to them, the National Council decided to hold public hearings to test whether the public outrage about some aspects of the bill was justified. At the time those opposed to the controversial spy clauses of the bill welcomed the National Councils move and praised the House of Review for being independent minded.

At the beginning of this month the councils standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and security, chaired by Jhonny Hakaye, conducted three days of public hearings. Newspaper editors, telecommunications companies, educational institutions and various ministries and government agencies made written and oral submissions to the committee.

On Tuesday, Hakaye reported back to the National Council and tabled a report in which his committee recommended some changes to particularly the clause on inception centres, which has earned the bill the popular name Spy Bill.

Among the changes proposed by the committee were that Clause 70 (8), which deals with the privacy of individuals, be amended to allow interception to be done only after an order by the Judge President or any other Judge as assigned by him. This was aimed at bringing the bill in line with the Constitution.

If not changed, the committee said there is a high probability of the courts striking down this clause. The committee further proposed that an interception order must also only be made with very clear indication of who the applicant is, against whom, the type of communication that will be intercepted and through which telecommunication or postal service provider such interception will take place.

But, with the bill having sailed through without amendment, all these proposals and the hard work and human and financial resources that went into organising the public hearings have been flushed down the drain.

A source close to the NC told The Namibian that the Minister of Information, Joel Kaapanda, did not want any amendments to the bill and is said to have had a meeting with some National Council MPs to lobby them to pass the bill without amendments.

Swapo Chief Whip Jhonny Hakaye, proposed on Thursday that the bill be accepted, not saying a word about the amendments proposed by his committee. The Namibian wrote on Friday that the bills passing without amendment was the result of a mistake by the National Council.

Kaapanda denied allegations of lobbying the MPs and said that there was a meeting called by Hakaye scheduled for Wednesday. He said the Information Ministrys technical staff was invited to the meeting but the meeting was called off without an explanation.

Hakaye could not be reached for comment.

The Namibian

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