Namibia - Politics, government, and taxation



At the end of World War II South Africa set out to make Namibia into a South African province, initiating a decades long struggle on the part of people living in Namibia to claim independence. The fight for independence was led by the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO). In 1977, a UN contact group comprising the 5 western members of the security council—the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Canada, and West Germany—began to negotiate for Namibia's independence directly with South Africa and SWAPO. In 1978, South Africa announced its acceptance of the contact group's settlement proposal. However, in May of that year, South African forces attacked SWAPO's refugee transit camp at Cassing in South Angola, leaving 600 dead, and the settlement was abandoned.

Independence discussions continued for 10 years and, during this period, South Africa began to ease its grip on Namibia, allowing a transitional government of national unity (a coalition of 6 parties) to take control of internal affairs from June 1985. In November 1989, UN-supervised elections were held, and Dr. Sam Nujoma was elected and inaugurated as the president of Namibia in February 1990. One month later, on 21 March 1990, Namibia attained independence. Nujoma has been reelected in 1995 and 1999. SWAPO has continued to have an overall majority of seats in National Assembly, with 55 seats in 1999 compared to the opposition's 17. The largest opposition party is the Congress of Democrats (COD) with 7 seats. In the National Council SWAPO has 21 seats, and 6 seats are held by the 2 opposition parties. The largest opposition party in the National Council is the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia (DTA) with 5 seats.

The constitution provides for a multiparty democracy in a unitary state. The president is head of state and government and commander-in-chief of the defence forces. Elected by direct universal adult suffrage at intervals of not more than 5 years, the president must receive more than 50 percent of the votes cast.

The president appoints the government, the armed forces chief of staff, and members of a public service commission, but the National Assembly may revoke any appointment. The president may dissolve the National Assembly and may also proclaim a state of emergency and rule by decree, subject to the approval of the National Assembly.

There is a bi-cameral legislature. The National Council with 26 members is chosen from the elected regional councils. The National Assembly has 72 elected members and up to 6 nominated but non-voting members serving for a maximum of 5 years. The National Assembly can remove the president from office by passing an impeachment motion with a two-thirds majority. The prime minister is leader of government business in the National Assembly.

The constitution includes 25 entrenched clauses regarding fundamental human rights and freedoms. There is no death sentence nor detention without trial, and the practice and ideology of apartheid is expressly forbidden. Private property rights are guaranteed. Amendments to the constitution can only be made by two-thirds majorities in both houses.

Namibia raises most of its government revenue from trade taxes (customs duties and export levies ), and 30 percent of the public income came from these sources in 1993. Sales taxes and taxes on incomes each raised 29 percent of the total, and the remaining government revenue (12 percent of the total) came from surpluses on government-owned enterprises (10 percent) and other taxes (1 percent).

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