Farewell to a Stalwart of the Judiciary


By Kuvee Kangueehi Windhoek The Namibian legal fraternity on Wednesday evening bade farewell to one of Namibia’s well-known judges, Justice Simpson Mtambanengwe, who retired yesterday. The personalities in the Namibian legal system gathered at the Wanderers Sports Club where they held the official farewell dinner. At the occasion, many lawyers including Chief Justice Peter Shivute paid tribute to the retiring judge. Shivute said Mtambanengwe has remained steadfast to the oath of office he took on his appointment, namely that of defending and upholding the constitution as the supreme law and fearlessly administering justice to all persons without favour or prejudice and in accordance with the law. “Justice Mtambanengwe and his post-independence pioneering colleagues have laid a strong foundation upon which our judicial values are now anchored.” Shivute also paid special tribute to the retiring judge and expressed his deep appreciation for Mtambanengwe’s selfless service to the Namibian Judiciary and, indeed, to the Namibian people. The Chief Justice also gave a brief history of Mtambanengwe’s career and said the retiring Judge’s journey of active involvement in the fight and protection for human rights and social justice started way back in the Fifties while he was still at high school. After finishing school, Mtambanengwe taught for a year and later entered the University of Zimbabwe (then the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland) at its founding, and graduated in English, Economics and Latin at the end of 1959. At the university, Mtambanengwe served as a member of the Students Representative Council. Upon completion of another brief teaching spell, he left in 1960 for Britain to read law at the Inner temple and was called to the English bar in 1963, after which he read a year in the Chambers of eminent barristers, Sir Elwyn Jones and Sam Silkin. While studying in Britain, justice Mtambanengwe was a founder member and first president of the Zimbabwe Students Union. He was also the United Kingdom representative of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) up to the party’s first congress. In 1964 Justice Mtambanengwe returned to Zimbabwe and was admitted to the local bar in June later that year. Justice Mtambanengwe had been a member of African nationalist parties since the time of the Youth league and was elected Zanu Secretary for External Affairs at its first Congress at Gweru in 1964. When the party was ultimately banned, Justice Mtambanengwe went to Tanzania where he continued to actively participate in the struggle for his country’s independence. After the first Independence elections in 1980 and with the mission to liberate his country now accomplished, Justice Mtambanengwe ceased active politics and began to concentrate on his practice as a legal practitioner. He travelled extensively during the days of struggle to mobilize international public opinion and to draw international attention to the plight of his country. While in practice in Zimbabwe between 1980 and 1986, he served as a councillor in the Law Society of Zimbabwe and as a member of the Disciplinary Committee of the Society for two years. In November 1986, he was appointed to the Bench and subsequently became a High Court Judge. In 1994, he became Chairperson of the Disciplinary Tribunal at the request of his country’s Chief Justice. Also in 1994, the authorities were constrained by the critical shortage of judges in Namibia to seek assistance from outside the borders of Namibia. Consequently, Justice Mtambanengwe was seconded to the Namibian judiciary, where he was appointed a Judge of the High Court the same year. Apart from being judge of the High Court, justice Mtambanengwe held other key appointments in Namibia, such as Chairperson of the Board of Legal Education, Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Acting Judge President of the High Court and Acting Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The occasion was also attended by Judge President Petrus Damaseb of the High Court.