The promotion of the rule of law and constitutional governance are essential elements for peace, security and political stability
By Catherine Sasman
After nearly a century of colonial and apartheid rule characterised by comprehensive infringement of basic human rights of the majority and prevalent inequalities, Namibia adopted a multiparty democracy at independence.
This establishes the country as a sovereign, democratic and unitary state, pillared on the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice for all.
The Namibian Constitution adopted at independence contains a comprehensive guarantee for human rights and freedoms, an executive president with widespread powers, a legislative body and an independent judiciary.
These constitutional gains, recognised the Namibian Government in its third National Development Plan (NDP3), are not sacrosanct and can be sustained only in a peaceful democracy with political stability within the framework of the rights and democracy guaranteed in the supreme law of the country.
A serious blight on Namibia’s peaceful dispensation, the Government says, is the crime rate particularly against women and children and other marginalised groups such as people living with disabilities, which constitute a serious violation of the human rights and is an impediment to the social development of those affected.
Hence, under NDP3, the enhancement of sustained participatory democracy, the strengthening of the rule of law and social justice, as well as internal security and territorial integrity are viewed as important key result areas.
The NDP2 Period
During the period of the second National Development Plan (NDP2), the Government committed itself to promoting the rule of law and constitutional governance by instilling confidence in the administration of justice.
While no proper targets were set, said the Government, a lot has been achieved during the five years spanning 2000/01 to 2005/06.
One serious setback during the NDP2 time span was the critical shortage of legal experts in the public sector as professionals drifted in a steady stream to the more competitive private sector.
The multiparty system was upheld through regular elections, and the Decentralisation Implementation Plan (DIP) came into being, paving the way for delegation and devolution of powers to the 13 regions and local authorities.
Positive developments in civic life, enumerated the Government, include the empowerment of communities to exercise their rights through the registration of births and the issuance of national documents – identity documents and passports – through a modernised system.
The main goal in ensuring internal security, the National Planning Commission said, was the strengthening of security and enhanced capacity to defend Namibia’s territorial integrity through participation in continental and global operations – the Peace Support Mission of SADC, the AU and the UN – as well as the development of infrastructure.
The Namibian Prisons is said to have played an important role during NDP2 in providing safe custody to offenders and their subsequent rehabilitation.
Common constraints in the maintenance of peace, security and political stability, were given as inadequate budgetary allocations and delays in capital projects.
– Law and Justice
The focus of NDP2 was to instil confidence in the administration of justice by making it accessible to all – both physically and resourcewise – as well as to promote the rule of law and constitutional governance.
This included the decentralisation of the administration of justice, and the provision of legal assistance and representation to the economically disadvantaged, that the government gets sound legal advice and services, and dealing with the maladministration in State institutions.
Salient achievements of these objectives are recorded as the upgrading of magistrate’s courts and buildings in four towns and in Windhoek. New courts were built at Opuwo and Noordoewer, and renovations were done to courts and official residents in 11 towns.
Similarly, new periodical courts were constructed at Okahao (Omusati Region), Okongo (Ohangwena), Ngoma (Caprivi) under the development programme of the Ministry of Safety and Security.
A feasibility study was done for the upgrading of the Ministry of Justice to accommodate all its directorates and offices during NDP2, but it turned out to be too costly during the development period, but remains a priority for the NDP3 span.
In addition, the Namibian Magistrates Court Information System (Namcis) was designed and is being piloted in the Khomas Region.
During the five-year NDP2 period, the Magistrates’ courts dealt with 329ǟ