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Govt blesses MPs with free iPhones

THE government has bought members of parliament (MPs) iPhones and Samsung phones, because most members cannot afford them.

Confirmed beneficiaries of the free gadgets worth millions of dollars are lawmakers from the National Assembly (NA). However, it could not be confirmed yesterday whether National Council (NC) members also received phones.

NA speaker Peter Katjavivi yesterday confirmed this purchase to The Namibian.

“It’s quite legitimate. It means you are using your cellphone to facilitate your work as a member of parliament. As you know also, many important e-parliament documents are loaded onto your platform and you can only access them via your phone,” he said.

“We fully support members of parliament to be adequately equipped,” he said.

Katjavivi said he does not know the value of the phones as he was not involved in the procurement process.

“I am sure it will be taken into account not to go for the most expensive phones, but there are particular phones that are usually available and affordable, and it’s up to the MPs to make use of that.”

The NA has 104 members, while the NC has 42 members.

The Namibian has been told the majority of the parliamentarians opted for the iPhone 13 Pro Max, while others chose the latest Samsung phones.

The phones were said to be bought from MTC, which sells its iPhone 13 Pro Max (256GB) at N$28 000 each.

MTC spokesperson Tim Ekandjo yesterday declined to comment.

Swapo chief whip in the NA Hamunyera Hambyuka yesterday said members of parliament asked for the phones, since the majority of them cannot afford to buy gadgets with enough space to accommodate parliament documents.

“Cellphones are one of our perks, and for the past nine to 10 years, members of parliament have not received them,” he said.

Hambyuka said the decision supports efforts to switch to a paperless parliament and to discourage MPs from carrying documents.

“The questions about the money or how much the phones were bought for should be directed at the secretary to the National Assembly,” Hambyuka said.

Swapo parliamentarian Agnes Kafula said there is nothing irregular about MPs receiving iPhones.

“What is wrong with that? Are they (parliamentarians) not working?” she asked, adding that she has already received hers.

South West Africa National Union member of parliament Tangeni Iijambo said although members of parliament can afford to buy their own phones, strengthening their capacity should not be seen as improper.

“I don’t know when it was decided. Perhaps it was before I got there,” he said.

National Unity Democratic Organisation president Esther Muinjangue declined to comment on the matter yesterday, saying she has not received a cellphone.

“Ask those who are benefiting,” she said.

Landless People’s Movement deputy leader Henny Seibeb said: “Already members of parliament are sharing offices due to a lack thereof, and this hampers their work. But provision of the tools of trade is a standard practice worldwide to enable them to perform their work efficiently and effectively. From our perspective, we make optimal use of such tools of the trade, for example, for research.”

A lawmaker who declined to be named, said the request for cellphones came from Swapo members of parliament.

In June 2018, China’s Huawei donated 157 Huawei MediaPad M3 Lite tablets to MPs meant to efficiently execute their legislative duties.

There were concerns that lawmakers would be spied on.

They are also entitled to N$12 000 a year for entertainment, and around N$35 000 every term as a furniture allowance.

A minister earns N$940 000, which translates to N$78 000 per month.

An ordinary MP in the NA earns N$620 000, which translates to around N$51 000 per month.

Other perks for MPs include water, electricity and transport allowances for officials without state vehicles, while ministers and their deputies have access to Mercedes Benz and BMW vehicles.

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