President Hage Geingob's address during the opening of the 2016 legal year
Justice and law are the cornerstones of any functioning democracy that strives as stated in the preamble of the Namibian Constitution (and I quote) "to achieve national reconciliation and to foster peace, unity and a common loyalty to a single state and this we do through securing to all our citizens justice, liberty, equality and fraternity."
For more on this, find my address below which I delivered this morning during the Opening of the 2016 Legal Year, at the Supreme Court of Namibia:
FEBRUARY 4, 2016, WINDHOEK
The fact that our Judiciary contributes significantly to our efforts to build a successful nation has never been lost on the Government. On many occasions in the past, my predecessors, Comrades Dr Sam Shafiishuna Nujoma and Dr Hifikipunye Pohamba, affirmed the Government's steadfast commitment to the promotion of an efficient and effective administration of justice. They stated the fact that commitment to justice remained the cornerstone of the policy of our Government.
Today, I am here to continue the legacy of these great leaders - the legacy of peace and justice. A legacy in which we, the citizens of the independent Namibia, have chosen Constitutional democratic rule over autocracy and the rule of law over arbitrary use of governmental power. We have chosen respect for basic human rights over brutality and denial of basic freedoms.
It is therefore an honour for me to be here this morning to partake in this ceremony, which is one of the key annual events symbolizing the democratic values, entrenched in the foundation of the Namibian House.
When the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice introduced the High Court Legal Year in 2006, I don't think they envisaged the magnitude and the impact this flagship event would have over the years. It has been a decade since this very important platform was created to "be a public information forum" and barely six weeks from the day our nation will be celebrating the 26th anniversary of Independence day.
During his earlier remarks, the Chief Justice aptly set out the challenges of the High Court during the preceding year, and for the sake of brevity, I will not repeat those here. But I am impressed with the frankness and openness with which this was done. More importantly, I am pleased to see that he also shared the achievements that were in part brought about by the introduction of the 2014 High Court rules, most notably of which is the Alternative Dispute Resolution process that is making major inroads on how justice is served in this country.
I am equally pleased to see that the members of the learned profession such as the office of the Prosecutor General, the Law Society of Namibia and Society of Advocates also use this opportunity to reflect on the challenges and opportunities their various institutions face. It also tells me that the relationship between the judiciary and the members of the organized profession has grown and matured to a level that culminates in the atmosphere we are witnessing at this event today.
When we talk about notions such as access to justice, need for speedy completion of trials and honesty and integrity in the dealings with the public, we understand that we have a greater calling than just doing our jobs.
Director of Ceremonies,
Honourable Members of the Legal Profession
I spent most of 2015 promoting a shared vision and building a firm foundation for the themes around which most of what I do is anchored namely: "No Namibian should feel left out", "the Namibian House", "War on poverty" and "Harambee". I have also declared 2016 as the year of implementation. I think you will agree with me that when you promise speedy trials and improvement in the area of timely delivery of judgements, you understand the importance of putting in place mechanisms that will ensure that you deliver on your promises. I understand all too well, that Namibians have waited long enough for prosperity and that the task to deliver on these promises now lies with me.
When you create a platform, such as the High Court Legal Year where you report on the state of the administration of justice in this country, it is expected that things should look different ten years down the line. And I have no doubt from what the Chief Justice has reported that there has been exponential improvement in how justice is delivered in this country. I agree that it is not perfect yet but there is concrete proof that we are continuing the process of perfecting the system. I believe that if we continue working together in the spirit of camaraderie with the ethos of Harambee, we will one day have a justice system that will be the envy of much older democracies around the world.
Director of Ceremonies,
I am not a lawyer. I am a political scientist, political analyst and practicing politician, and in many respects we see the same things differently but one thing I do understand is that justice and law are the cornerstones of any functioning democracy that strives as stated in the preamble of the Namibian Constitution (and I quote) "to achieve national reconciliation and to foster peace, unity and a common loyalty to a single state and this we do through securing to all our citizens justice, liberty, equality and fraternity"
In this regard, I recently signed into law, the Judiciary Act, 2015, a piece of law that is aimed at augmenting the independence of the Judiciary, and the role performed by the Judiciary in our State affairs. The Judiciary Act espouses in further detail, the intended objectives of the Third Namibian Constitutional Amendment Act, 2014.
Honourable Chief Justice,
Members of the Judiciary,
I understand the importance of creating a platform for reflection. It is something that I subscribe to. You would have noticed that since I took office, I have spoken to the nation three times, and in my last address to the people of this beautiful country, I said "new year is a moment for quiet reflection where we all recount the good and bad of the past year and endeavor to ensure that the good of our thoughts and actions always outweighs the bad". I also said and I quote "It is important that we recalibrate our moral compasses in the direction of what is right and not which direction fits within our economic interests, pre-existing views and personal prejudices".
There is therefore need to critically evaluate our hearts and minds to rid ourselves of self-destructive behavior. I am confident that this is something the legal profession does not or should not struggle with because this is a profession that is associated with integrity, honesty and nobility.
The fact that lawyers from all walks of life, chose a time and space to candidly reflect on their activities, and to propose solutions that will address gaps identified deserves an applause, because just as we want to chastise ourselves for shortcomings we must learn to celebrate our achievements.
Director of Ceremonies,
I want to talk about the role of law in this country. It has to change if not already. Contributing to socio- economic development cannot only be a purview for political, economic and social scientists. Law that has the backing of a much acclaimed constitution, like ours, must be transformative. The people of this country must come to lawyers not only to seek justice for individual matters but must come to lawyers to change the landscape of their socio-economic conditions.
Martin Luther King Junior, aptly captured the importance of the law when he said and I quote, "Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress."
Our Legal professionals are not only the gatekeepers of justice but also play a significant role as enablers of social progress. They must therefore exhibit the most robust of moral fabrics in order to ensure that they don't become the dangerously structured dams that will stifle the dreams and aspirations of the populous and in turn social progress.
Director of Ceremonies,
Members of the Legal Profession,
Over the next few months it is anticipated that bills such as the New Equitable Economic Empowerment Framework, Laws Prohibiting Development, Public Private Partnerships, laws pertaining to land and housing matters will enter the public arena that is intended to improve the livelihood of our vulnerable communities. The poor in this country need us. Persons with disabilities, remain marginalised. There is much more work we need to do for the safety of our women and children. The situation in our country is not bad but it needs a radical intervention going forward. Justice will mean nothing if it does not create a socially just society.
At this juncture, let me acknowledge the sterling work done by the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice, the Attorney General as well as other members of the Judicial Service Commission by being exemplars of professionalism and leadership at the helm of the Judiciary and legal sector.
I would like to call on the profession in its entirety, including the academia, represented by the Faculty of Law of the University of Namibia, to make their voices heard. We want the profession to lead the way. I want to see more critical analysis and researched works coming from this profession.
Aristotle once said and I quote, "At his best, man is the most noblest of all animals; separated from law and justice he is the worst." Let us as tenants of this beautiful house, display the utmost of nobility by never being separated from law and justice but using it as mortar that will hold us together in peace and unity as One Namibia One Nation marching onwards to a future of prosperity.
With these words, I am pleased to open the 2016 Legal Year, and wish all of you good health, success and indeed, a productive 2016 Legal Year.
I thank you.