Courts seek greater independence

23 Sep 2015 08:30am


The Namibian judiciary is on its way to becoming more independent with the planned establishment of the Office of the Judiciary. This office will be headed by the Chief Justice and will be separate from the Ministry of Justice.

The plans for this self-governing office were set in motion and passed by Parliament last year before the national and presidential elections as part of provisions of the Third Amendment Act.

The proposed Act created controversy among the public who feared that the constitutional changes would give sweeping powers to the President, thus jeopardising the country's democracy. The act made provision for the President to appoint a vice-president, other additional staff in the Presidency and eight non-voting members to Parliament, as opposed to the previous six members. Both Cabinet and the National Council were also enlarged, while administration changes were made to the judiciary.

On Tuesday, Chief Justice Peter Shivute visited the Keetmanshoop Magistrate's Court on a familiarisation tour where he confirmed that the Office of the Judiciary would become a reality once legislation to govern it is passed in Parliament. He did not say when this would happen, but said that it would secure greater independence for the judiciary as it would then operate separately from the Ministry of Justice.

Shivute said with the new structure, the judiciary will for the first time reside under one umbrella, making it easier to control and manage all matters of the judicial system.

Keetmanshoop principal magistrate Philanda Christiaan said the change is welcomed as the independence over financial and administrative matters will grant greater effectiveness to the courts.

In the gathering with all 37 staff members of the Keetmanshoop Magistrate's office, Shivute advised the officers to commit themselves to the execution of timely justice and to ensure that courts run on time. "We have to be responsive to the needs of the nation in a manner that is ultimately for the common good of all," the top judge said.

Shivute said his visit to Keetmanshoop was the second after a meeting in Rehoboth earlier in the day. His three-person delegation was on a tour to the central and southern regions, as well as Omaheke and Erongo.

Another delegation headed by Judge President and Deputy Chief Justice Petrus Damaseb is touring the northern regions of the country.