Is the Constitution Still Alive?

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Sixteen years after the adoption of Namibia’s constitution, the question whether this “democracy’s blueprint” still remains a living document was brought up yesterday at a gathering to commemorate Constitution Day. At the event that was attended by current and former parliamentarians, members of the diplomatic corps and captains of industry, the president of the opposition party Congress for Democrats (CoD) Ben Ulenga contended that democratic values are not sufficiently internalised in the daily political, economic and cultural life and interactions of ordinary Namibians. “Our public institutions of State and Government and those heading them have not properly and sufficiently internalised the political values enshrined in the Constitution,” he stated. This, according to Ulenga is supported by the prevalent negative, despicable political culture of denigrating and demonising the political opposition. With that, he criticised some media houses and other institutions that he believes have instead of serving the nation in a neutral manner, become party political tools. Ulenga said the opposition would with determination ensure that the constitution remains a living document in Namibia. However, Minister of Justice and Attorney General Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana, who was the only woman on the 21-member committee that drafted the Constitution said the Constitution, which she defined as a roadmap to unity, liberty, justice, equality and fairness, would be amended where need be so that its soul, vision, and mission remain rekindled. She indicated that the Ministry of Justice through its laws and legislative drafting departments must reform and draft laws to bring meaning to the constitution. According to the Attorney General, “there are many ways in which the Ministry of Justice enhances the Constitution as a living document. These activities range from the defence of government interests in litigious or non-litigious matters, in compliance with international laws”. Though the ministry might not have performed to its maximum in the past to make certain that the Constitution remained a vibrant document, the ministry would engage civil society, development partners, lawmakers and the people they represent so that “this mir- ror reflects the soul of Namibia remains robust and solid”. Speaker of the National Assembly Theo-Ben Gurirab said Constitutional day was important as it ensured that Namibians understood their rights and that there are laws protecting them. However, Gurirab said there was a need to do more by using this day for public awareness activities through professional debates on social issues, community teach-in programmes, popular and other initiatives that would bring the youth and other members of the public together. The constitution for the past 15 years has played an active part in governance, national building and lawmaking among others. The Speaker reminded all members of parliament that they have a daunting task to make sure that the Namibian Constitution remains a dynamic document that reflects the interest and aspirations of the Namibian people for a better life. “Citizens have the right to petition Parliament on issues affecting their daily lives for which they have sought redress at other Government agencies unsuccessfully,” he reminded the public. He appealed to all Namibians to each year find on this day a special place of reverence in their hearts and minds for the principles and objectives embodied in the Constitution.