Generally, I find law biased towards the affluent and powerful of our society while suffocating the wretched.
Few cases would warrant discussion.
I had just arrived in Namibia when the Supreme Court was delivering judgment on the election case. I came to court early so that I could occupy a position where I had a clear view. I was wearing a Stellenbosch golf t-shirt. Apparently, I was not “properly dressed” said the police officer who denied me access.
“What do you mean I am not properly dressed?” I furiously asked. “No, you can’t ask me that, it’s the rules,” he responded.
Later I was informed that the law does not permit t-shirted people in courts. I needed a suit, they said.
I had to borrow a suit from a friend nearby.
We are now aware that the suit-dressed Namibians would be well treated compared to those with t-shirts donated by their universities (shocking still).
The second case is when I was harassed by a racist police inspector in Ongwediva last year. I made a case (although police officers did not want to open the case) against him. I ended up at the offices of the Regional Commander who accordingly condemned this bigot while indicating the increase of complaints against him. It has been a year now and I don’t know what happened to that case. I have thus decided as follows; should I meet that bigot again in my life and the same happens again, I will deal with him myself – physically (and m’pe kapinya lelalela).
Elsewhere, the oppressive law of the land has been recognised by scholars. Clever Mapaure (B. Juris, LLB and LLM – all Cum Laude), in his article published in Namibia Law Journal- Vol 1 (2) of 2009, makes similar, albeit slightly different, findings on proclamation or declaration of local authority areas in communal areas. In his article titled “Jurisprudential aspects of proclaiming towns in communal areas in Namibia,” Mapaure ( my 2009 SRC Legal Advisor) unravels serious jurisprudential dichotomies regarding the powers of both the central and traditional government structures and writes; “Statutory law, as it stands in Namibia, cannot be applied in a way that negates traditional norms; however, although the prescribed procedures seek to strike a balance between the two legal systems, this equilibrium has not been adequately achieved. The conflict between laws will persist in an uneasy pluralism, therefore.”
So that is the kind of law we have.
You may wonder what the relevance of the above narrative and contexts is? I selected these narratives to prepare your mind as I discuss a report in The Villager (Monday, August 22, 2011). The weekly reported that “Several high profile legal practitioners consisting of formerly disadvantaged black professionals aiming to emancipate themselves have formed a Namibia Lawyers Association (NLA).”
It was made known to us that the founding President of NLA, Advocate Dirk Conradie, correctly argued that “Primarily, the NLA is established to bring about and ensure transformation in the hitherto status quo ante (colonialism) position in the legal fraternity recognition for black lawyers. The NLA is of the view that the Law Society of Namibia and its current leadership do not have the credentials to bring about real transformation.” The concern of this space today, in light of the above narratives, is to welcome and endorse the formation of NLA.
Charlatans often find it fashionable to abuse the term ‘transformation.’ We must therefore look at how genuine is any talks of transformation and empowering the black majority. Indeed, we recognise the credentials of Advocate Conradie to bring about real transformation for he is a Director at Conradie & Damaseb.
Are credentials awarded to those that are directors of law firms? You may ask. Those who might struggle with this question would be brought to light with an understanding that Conradie & Damaseb was the first black Namibian law firm in 1988. Indeed, results of real credentials is to be awarded to the likes of Sisa Namandje who is one of the first home educated Namibians to run successful black firms with tremendous pride and repute among black Namibians. Siza now is a hero and a role model to many of my friends studying law at Unam and abroad.
It is fundamental that black lawyers organise. It is important that organisations such NLA are formed for such have worked in history. The California Association of Black Lawyers (CABL), in the United States, was formed in the 1970s as an organisation to address issues facing black lawyers and judges in California.
At the time, CABL sought to “Change the face of the judiciary in California and to influence the course of events pertinent to black people. [other objectives were] the stimulation of black lawyers in organized bar activities, to seek out and eradicate the roots and causes of racism, and to prepare the high standards of integrity, honour and courtesy in the legal profession.” CABL has successfully challenged inequities in the legal system and has grown both in membership and influence. It continues to be key in increasing the number of African-American judges throughout California. In endorsing NLA, we must wish them the best in their set objectives. We must also express home that NLA would soon establish a scholarship scheme for black law students at UNAM.
Till Second Half – Hear and be Heard