By Kaleb Nghishidivali
Swakopmund, 10 August-The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs (HASCLA) has announced the upcoming promulgation of the Witness Protection Act No. 11 of 2017 and the Whistle Blower Protection Act No. 10 of 2017, after years of delay.
The announcement was made during an oversight engagement with selected Organizations, Ministries, and Agencies (OMAs) in Swakopmund, Erongo Region. The Committee had been probing the delay of these vital pieces of legislation with Gladice Pickering, the Executive Director (ED) in the Ministry of Justice.
The ED informed the Committee that N$50 Million had been allocated for the operationalization of the two Acts for the 2023/2024 financial year, with priority given to the Witness Protection Act. The Act, highly anticipated since its passage in 2017, is now expected to be promulgated as early as September 2023.
Explaining the delay, Pickering highlighted challenges such as the need to establish intelligence infrastructure, negotiate agreements with member states, and set up a safe house network before the Acts could be operationalized. She also mentioned the centralization of power in the Director of the Unit’s hands as a potential issue in the Witness Protection Act, which would be addressed when finalizing the regulations.
Turning to the Whistle Blower Protection Act, Pickering noted that certain modalities were being rectified, as the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) already has a similar mandate. The Act may be amended to delegate the responsibility back to ACC and is expected to be enacted in the 2024/2025 financial year.
The Committee also raised concerns about delays in the tabling of the High Court Amendment Bill and the Magistrate’s Court Amendment Bill of 2021. Pickering attributed these delays to a shortage of experienced legal drafters, with only four out of 19 legal drafters in the Ministry of Justice currently capable of drafting legislation without supervision.
The Committee’s engagements extended to other OMAs in the constitutional and legal affairs fraternity, discussing staffing issues, case backlogs, and overcrowding of holding cells, among other issues.
During the discussions, the Chairperson of the Standing Committee, John Likando, highlighted urban poverty, house repossessions by commercial banks, and exploitation of the country’s resources as urgent issues requiring attention. Ombudsman, Advocate Basilius Dyakugha, concurred, emphasizing that citizens should benefit from the country’s natural resources to address poverty.
The Committee’s oversight activities, which included observing court proceedings at the Erongo Regional Court and inspecting the Namibia Ports Authority (Namport), aim to strengthen its overall oversight function. ~Namibia Daily News