By Roland Routh
WINDHOEK – President Hifikepunye Pohamba has called on the courts to impose strict bail conditions on persons accused of rape and domestic violence.
He said this during the launch of the 2015 legal year of the Supreme Court on Friday.
Pohamba said the phenomenon of violent crimes represents a deplorable blemish on the country’s social fabric as innocent women and children are the victims of senseless violent attacks almost on a daily basis.
“As law-abiding citizens, we are appalled by such barbaric attacks,” he said.
“For their safety, our people look up to our courts and criminal justice system to protect them from perpetrators of this violence.”
He said the criminal justice system, namely, law enforcement agencies and the courts should spare no effort in combating crime and ensuring that justice is done to punish perpetrators of violence.
“With regard to cases of rape and domestic violence, strict bail conditions must be applied to protect complainants from victimisation, threats and further violence by those accused,” Pohamba stressed.
With regard to ever increasing legal costs, which constitutes a significant barrier to access to justice for many, Pohamba said he has heard the outcry of people and welcomed the initiative of the judiciary to introduce alternative dispute resolution in the form of court accredited mediation.
However, he said more should be done to expand mediation as a form of dispute resolution in the country.
In the same vein, Pohamba urged relevant institutions to fast-track legislation aimed at making small claims courts operational.
“This will make it possible for minor civil disputes to be removed from the formal court process and be dealt with in a more informal, cost-effective and speedier fashion,” he said.
According to Pohamba, access to justice is one of the important cornerstones of the Namibian constitution and should be promoted as a fundamental human right.
“This should include the provision of information to the general public about the workings of our courts and our justice system,” he said, adding that it should include the speedier resolution of disputes at all levels of court.
According to Pohamba, the issue of a backlog of cases in the court system is of grave concern for his administration, but he was pleased to be informed that “this matter of national concern is being addressed at top level”.
Pohamba said he would leave office as president “fortified in the knowledge that our country has come a long way, and made progress in strengthening our democracy and creating stable public institutions”.
He introduced the President-elect Dr Hage Geingob and said he has no doubt that the new executive would continue to bolster democracy, the rule of law and good governance as the cornerstones of developing Namibia.
The launch was attended by the judges of the High Court and Supreme Court, the prosecutor general, the minister of justice and his deputy as well as members of the legal fraternity.