Windhoek-The Namibian justice system too has not been spared the country’s far-reaching budgetary cuts by government that have affected health, education, agriculture, the police and many other sectors.
The financial cuts have raised huge concern within the justice system with fears the judiciary might not be able to pay court fees, such as witness and interpreter fees associated with criminal trials in both the high court and magistrates’ courts.
Chief Justice Peter Shivute says given the proposed budget allocation for the 2017/2018 financial year, the anticipated cuts are going to be devastating and the current unintended consequences of the current financial difficulties are of great concern.
Shivute voiced his concerns during the official opening of the 2017 legal year on Wednesday.
“The self-imposed austerity measures have adversely affected the operations of the courts,” explained Shivute.
According to Shivute, if additional resources are not allocated to the judiciary it will not be possible to appoint additional judicial officers. Furthermore, there will be no promotions in the magistracy and periodical courts may be discontinued.
At present the mediation process at the high court is under threat of being discontinued because of the judiciary’s inability to pay mediator fees, which will greatly affect the disposal of cases outside court without the need to go through costly and lengthy trials.
Shivute expressed his concern about the future of the justice system under the harsh financial situation, noting that they will be forced to shut down court offices for extended periods because they won’t able to cover water and electricity expenses as and when they become due and payable.
“It is my earnest wish that with the cooperation of the executive and the legislature, these consequences could be averted,” said President Hage Geingob however.
Geingob, who was in attendance, assured the judiciary that the government, through the Ministry of Finance, will explore all possible means to ensure the allocation of sufficient resources to the justice sector, inclusive of the judiciary, in order to ensure the continued operation and proper functioning of vital institutions.