The radicalisation of Namibian politics hasn’t been symmetrical. There are activists in our country who blatantly incite people with hateful rhetoric. Their behavior is a recipe for polarisation and conflict. Our social fabric is fraying and the bonds of community that holds us together are fractured. This is a problem because it undermines the civic spirit which makes democracy possible.
It is increasingly becoming common for some activists to run to courts in an attempt to push their agendas. The opportunistic use of the courts by the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) is very worrisome, especially because it is used as a deliberate ploy to politicise the law.
In 2015 the Affirmative Repositioning held a legal forum which was attended by recent law graduates, law students and young lawyers. This was a strategic move to gain access to the justice system, to control the courts and their rulings, to get free legal representation and to create a collusion between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
AR has achieved most of its goals in this regard they have succeeded in creating a team of angry, frustrated lawyers who are far too quick to follow the instructions of AR or to facilitate AR’s objectives without reflecting on whether those instructions or objectives serve the interests of justice.
Young Namibian lawyers who blindly follow AR must ask themselves whether their support is ethically justifiable, they should learn to act on the basis of principled convictions and not allow themselves to be swayed into pushing petty political agendas.
In this short article, I cannot explore the full range of lawyer’s responsibilities nor can I develop a comprehensive theory, or a comprehensive set of rules, to tell lawyers when to follow and when to resist instructions of AR.
I can, however, advice that lawyers have an obligation to the legal profession to provide honest, straightforward answers to inquiries concerning the law. Anything less would be unethical. Dishonesty is a pure oxymoron, and has no place in the legal profession.
As Namibians we ought to be very concerned when activists begin to think they are above the law. We have a shared obligation to defend the Namibian Constitution from the vagaries of popular opinion. There is a problem when activists begin to form a habit of threatening judges and interfering with court rulings.
I was very shocked when a very well-educated activist questioned the court ruling on a case of a Rundu woman who allegedly stole a bottle of juice and escaped police custody. This activist demonstrated his very little knowledge of the law and failed to understand the fact that “the law is reason free from passion”. Wrong is wrong no matter who does it – there is no moral justification to stealing. It is very worrisome when people begin to make such public manifestations that undermines the law and what it represents.
I made this individual observation rightfully as a Namibian who is entitled to my opinion and I would like to highlight that this is not to take away the fact that people have rights to question the courts and court rulings when necessary, but people too have a right to ask questions when it becomes a habit for people to constantly undermine the ability of the courts to make just and equitable inferences.
*Fillemon Shikomba holds a Master’s Degree in Law from Hofstra University , New York , USA