Namibia's constitution can withstand the test of time: Matjila

11 Feb 2015 07:50am
WINDHOEK, 11 FEB (NAMPA) – “We are proud that we gave the people of Namibia a constitution which can withstand the test of time.”
These were the noble remarks of former Namibian politician and member of the first Constituent Assembly, Andrew Matjila, as the country celebrated Constitution Day on Monday.
The Namibian Constitution was adopted with 71 signatories on February 9, 1990 after the country voted in the 1989 elections which heralded a new constitutional democracy.
Matjila was part of the 20 brave men and women who changed the course of Namibian history by producing this piece of legislation in just 80 days in 1989.
He told Nampa in an interview that he is convinced Namibia's living document is unique, and will remain as is until Vision 2030 is realised.
Recalling the drama, arguments, excitement and happy moments which went into crafting the constitution, Matjila says political parties had just emerged from important and historical elections.
“We formed the first House - it was not a Parliament but was called a Constituent Assembly (CA),” Matjila recalled.
Constituent Assembly meant that it was an assembly which was there to prepare a constitution for Namibia.
He said parties delegated members to the Constitution Committee (CC).
The Swapo-Party led the pack with the biggest representation in the CA with 41 seats, followed by the DTA of Namibia with 21 seats.
Smaller parties such as the Namibia National Front (NNF), the Federal Convention of Namibia (FCN), the National Patriotic Front (NPF), Action Christian National (ACN) and the United Democratic Front (UDF) with a seat each.
“The CA had given these parties the power to draft a constitution. The biggest party being Swapo had to elect somebody who could chair such a constitutional committee,” he explained.
Dr Hage Geingob was then elected as the chairperson of the CC.
“We lived in exciting times. We did not trust each other, and thus always looked at each other with suspicion.
It was tough when we started with the process. It was a question of give and take,” the former DTA leader noted.
However, to assist the CC, experts in international law - some from neighbouring South Africa - had to be robed in to help with the drafting of this piece of legislature.
Consultations ran across the length and breadth of the country and when the CC agreed on a principle, they would throw it to the experts, who would then apply a legal approach to the issue.
“That is how we proceeded. Geingob steered the CC in a tactical and experienced manner so that the 19 people were always satisfied,” Matjila said about the leader who will soon be sworn in as the country’s president.
Some 25 years down the line, Namibians should celebrate a constitution which is the supreme law of this country, he added.
“Chapter 3 of the Constitution is very important, and a key chapter as it embodies the freedoms of the people of Namibia,” he stressed.
Former Member of Parliament (MP) Ellen Musialela told this agency that although the Namibian Constitution is one of the best, the country still faces challenges, particularly regarding land.
“This should be addressed, or else it could derail the country from having peace,” she noted.
Musialela was, however, adamant that the constitution should be enshrined into the country's educational system, paving the way for children to interpret this very important document at a tender age.