Judges Pledge Unity

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By Emma Kakololo WINDHOEK Unity of purpose among the members of the judiciary at all levels was the platform for the Magistrates and Judges’ Association of Namibia (JAN) annual general meeting that was held over the weekend. According to a statement issued by JAN, its meeting resolved not to compromise its focus by also assuming the role of a trade union in real or anticipated labour disputes between judicial officers and any other organs of State. Notwithstanding dissatisfaction about their conditions of service, members also recognised that JAN’s involvement in such disputes would compromise the perceived independence of other members who, by nature of their judicial offices, may be required to preside in cases involving labour disputes of that nature. JAN was established with the aim to further the administration of justice by promoting uniformity of practice and the exchange and publication of information relating to the development of law and its application in Namibian courts Addressing the meeting, Chief Justice Peter Shivute urged the association to re-establish active participation in the Commonwealth Magistrates and Judges’ Association, an international association promoting the independence of the judiciary, advancing education in law and working towards the prevention of crime in the Commonwealth of Nations. He noted that when fully developed and its capacity strengthened, the association will have the capacity to effectively articulate the interests of its members and deliberate on matters of common interest. The Deputy Minister of Justice Utoni Nujoma also spoke about the benefit to members inherent in the realisation of JAN’s objectives. If realised, he said, it will “make the Association an important cog in the administration of justice and will help judicial officers to improve the quality of service being rendered to our Nation.” He added the effective and efficient administration of justice remains a priority area for his Ministry, without which the people of Namibia will not be able to enjoy their constitutionally guaranteed rights. The Government, therefore, is fully committed to the principle of having an independent and effective judiciary and will continue to provide administrative and logistical support to it. He reiterated remarks by President Hifikepunye Pohamba that the judiciary was playing and would continue to play a critical role in maintaining peace and enforcing the rule of law in the country. Speaking on behalf of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, who sponsored the event in furtherance of its policy of democratic institution building, Hubert Schillinger acknowledged the role of the judiciary and the need for it to function effectively in a country emerging from the injustices perpetrated upon its people during the years of apartheid. The new Management Committee of JAN for 2006 was also elected at the meeting; the members are Justice Gerhard Maritz (President), Christie Liebenberg (Vice President), Naomi Shivute (Secretary), Lea Shaanika (Treasurer) and Justice Kato van Niekerk (Additional Member).