It’s Constitution Day!

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Today is Constitution Day. Following national elections in1989, a total of 72 candidates from different political parties qualified to gain seats and formed the Constituent Assembly. Those elected were tasked to draw up the Namibian Constitution and 21of these members drafted the Constitution. On February 9, 1990, the Namibian Constitution was adopted in Windhoek. The then Chairman of the Constituent Assembly Hage Geingob yesterday told New Era that the committee was determined to draw up the Constitution so that the Namibian people could start enjoying the rights they had for so long been denied by colonialism, racism and apartheid. As one of the architects of the Constitution, Geingob describes it as “a living document, a document that regulates life and government activities.” The Constitution is there to limit the power of Government and determines citizens’ rights. Therefore, there is the need for every Namibian citizen to internalise the document. Cognisant of that, the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID) last year launched the translation of the Constitution in different indigenous languages to enable every Namibian to understand what their rights are. NID Program Manager Doris Kellner says Namibians have made a lot of strides in respecting the Constitution. She says democracy can only prevail where people have internalised the Constitution. The translation of this document into seven vernaculars has indeed made a great difference. Geingob views the day as significant, stating that it allows the Namibian people to review their rights and identify the ones they might not be aware of and are not practising. The Namibian Constitution has in the past 15 years enjoyed great attention. This, according to the first Prime Minister, can be detected in the country’s ability to maintain peace and unity. “We have peace and the country has been able to plan. I urge people to study the Constitution and get to know their rights,” Geingob stated. He says the Government has lived by the Constitution and thus citizens are expected to do the same. “The Constitution allows one to know what is right and what is wrong.” Geingob expressed satisfaction with the way the Namibian people have committed themselves to the principles as stipulated in this document. “We are a country under the law,” he proudly told New Era. Though many Namibians might seem to know their rights, architect Geingob appealed to all scholars to talk about the Constitution and share with those that might not be well acquainted with the document. The Namibian National Society for Human Rights (NHSR) feels that not every Namibian is aware of their rights. Spokesperson for NHSR, Dorcus Nangolo Phillemon, indicated that the country’s economy is deteriorating and that this in the process has prodded people to seek information on their rights. Though NID has translated the Constitution in local languages, NHSR feels it was not done in a clear manner. “The language dilutes the entire meaning of the Constitution and it does not make much sense,” she says. The NHSR has plans to carry out research in the near future after which translation of the Constitution would be done in a manner the society feels would make “sense”. “We should celebrate the day, it’s our only defence, our protection in the country,” Phillemon ended.