Fighting for justice by day and spreading the gospel to inmates at Namibia’s prisons in his spare time is just part of what makes local lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji’s life fulfilling.
He says he is a people’s person, who loves to spend time with his family, his wife and two boys aged four and nine years old.
“I have been happily married for 15 years and my family plays an important role in my life.”
However, he does not wish to discuss his family, as he wishes to keep that side of his life private.
“I feel that I need to do my part to help my fellow countrymen, be it through spreading the gospel or offering my legal expertise. I do pro bono work occasionally, especially when I believe in a person’s case and such persons are not able to afford legal fees or are rejected by legal aid services,” Siyomunji enthused. “I have a great passion for law and I strive to ensure that justice prevails,” he added.
Siyomunji says his life’s journey began in Zambia, where he was born to a Namibian father from the Zambezi Region and Zambian mother from Western Zambia and grew up in Lusaka where he completed his high school and went on to obtain a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education at the University of Zambia (Unza) in 1998. He says he was an obedient scholar that never got into trouble at school.
His father, the late Josephat Siyomunji, served as a minister in former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda’s administration. Kaunda also appointed the late Chrispin Katukula as the inspector general of the Zambian police. Both the late Katukula and the late Siyomunji were from the Zambezi Region.
After graduating, Siyomunji moved to Namibia and started lecturing at the International University of Management (IUM) from 2000 to 2004, specialising in commercial subjects and then moved to the Rundu College of Education, where he lectured from 2005 until 2007. He also became the first HIV/AIDS coordinator for the Ministry of Education in the Otjozondjupa Region in 2007 and worked as an education officer for the Ministry of Education from 2007 until 2011. Being a man who tried to educate himself continually, he enrolled for various qualifications including a Master of Science in HIV and AIDS Management degree and a diploma in accounting before he enrolled for a B-Juris degree at the University of Namibia (Unam), which he obtained in 2009 and further studied for an LLB degree, which he obtained in 2011.
“I always wanted to be a lawyer despite the fact that I studied other disciplines,” Siyomunji says,.
Asked why he opted to open his own law practice, Siyomunji says he always wanted to work for himself and do his own thing, so after working for a number of law firms, he decided to take the bold step of branching out on his own and has never looked back since then. “I currently employ one admitted lawyer and two administrative staff in addition to the office manager,” he says.
His toughest opponent in court is State Advocate Taudi Gaweseb, he confesses.
“He is a very thorough prosecutor and he leaves no stone unturned and, as a result, each time I go against him, I have to prepare extra hard and be at the top of my game,” he says of Gaweseb.
His favourite presiding officer is High Court Judge Alfred Siboleka. Siyomunji says “because I learn so much from him in terms of his experience on the bench and added on to that he takes a very relaxed and calm approach in court proceedings”.
My favourite case so far has been State vs Fransiskus Dimitri Narimab and Reuben Fritz because I got a Section 174 discharge for my client (Narimab) in the High Court, which is almost impossible in criminal cases of the High Court of Namibia.
Regarding the current legal system in Namibia, Siyomunji opines that it has undergone a lot of reform, which is good in general but could use some adjustments. For instance, Siyomunji says, he has an issue with the fact that one has to do a recusal application and a leave to appeal before the same presiding officer, who is the subject of the application. “This does not make sense to me, if a presiding officer has pronounced themselves, then let another presiding officer look at the record and make a determination. The current procedure does not sit well with me,” he stresses.
He advises upcoming legal practitioners to find out which area of the law they are passionate about and work hard in that area to perfect it. My passion is criminal law and I strive every day to be the best that I can be, to continuously perfect my skills, he says, adding that upcoming lawyers should find their niche in the market and go with it full force.
Lastly, but certainly not least, Siyomunji advises, “do not expect to win every case, but with every challenge that you face, put in your best and even if you do not succeed, you will earn the respect of your opponent”.