Understanding that Namibian women are killed like summer mosquitoes, whether because of their predatory practice – because of men’s undomesticated emotions – or otherwise, Namibians await intellectuals to raise to the pedestal pointing out root problems and the way forward.
Public expectations to provide direction is no monopoly for the intellectuals, as developmental journalists are also charged with this task. Clearly, Jemina Beukes, The Villager Senior Writer, understood this task when she made it her business to interview Minister Doreen Sioka; Women’s Solidarity member, Rosa Namises; Judge Elton Hoff; Women Action for Development (WAD) member, Veronica de Klerk and Ombudsman, Advocate John Robert Walters. The results of her interview were published in this newspaper on August 6 2012 titled; “Poverty, cause for violence against women.”
Asked to give his views on this matter of national importance, the advocate found it fashionable to oversimplify the matter, charging that our laws are rendered meaningless on account that victims do not take action themselves (Shocking!). Let’s reproduced the words of the advocate in case you missed the edition; “Why do women not have voices? We have such a beautiful Constitution and with all its provisions, women should be able to stand up and speak for themselves. The law cannot protect them from actual violence. It can only deal with the consequences… we must go back. We must teach our children about human rights from an early age. We need to cultivate a culture of tolerance and respect amongst our children. Brothers, sisters and cousins must learn to respect each other. Only then could we change this situation.” We shall return to this “view” later.
A friend of mine recently dealt with the Office of the Ombudsman in pursuit of the aspirations on Article 23 [Apartheid and Affirmative Action] of the Namibian constitution stating that; “Nothing contained in Article 10 [Equality and Freedom from Discrimination] hereof shall prevent Parliament from enacting legislation providing directly or indirectly for the advancement of persons within Namibia who have been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged by past discriminatory laws or practices.”
Article 89 of the Namibian constitution created the Ombudsman position under the Ombudsman Act no. 7 of 1990 to receive and inquire into and investigate complaints submitted to the Ombudsman. We are aware that past discriminatory practices, especially the Christian dogma, ensured that African names did not make it into formal documents. Our grandparents thus ended up being ‘Josuas’ and Josuas became our surnames.
Our children’s surnames are expected to be Joshua as shown on identity documents. “Josua” can be ‘Sindano’ but past discriminatory practices ensured that the name ‘Sindano’ would be relegated to the homestead far away from formal identity documents. My friend felt that Article 23 exists for him, as a disadvantaged person, to gain recourse through an institution called the Ombudsman. He did not know that the office established by the Constitution appears to be a dwarf in the matters relating to the provisions of Article 23 of our Constitution. This is not, however, our concern today. It is meant for your absorption.
Let’s return to the advocate proclamation on the topic of killing women. The man wonders why women do not have voices! Does he attempt to assert that women do not have a voice or do not speak for themselves? For how long have we had a ministry dedicated to women? Where was the advocate when women took to the street - as they always do when horrendous crimes are committed against them? If this voice seems insufficient to the advocate, the extreme feminist placard that read, “Cut Off His Penis”, is where we must direct him.
Has the Ombudsman visited women’s organisations and looked at their programmes of action? Wasn’t the Ombudsman receiving a salary when WAD’s Veronica de Klerk took the fight of women developmental voice to the Head of State asking for a compulsory national youth service? Is WAD not a women’s organisation that speaks for itself?
The Ombudsman further presented that we must teach our children about human rights from an early age and that we need to cultivate a culture of tolerance and respect amongst our children. That violence against women is brought by the lack of knowledge of “human rights from an early age” is an misdiagnosis and oversimplification of a serious national problem.
How the Ombudsman arrives at a positive correlation between violence against women and the “tolerance and respect amongst our children” remains to be proven by him. That “brothers, sisters and cousins must learn to respect each other” seems to suggest that there are killings among “brothers, sisters and cousins” who “must learn to respect each other.” We are not aware of such. The advocate failed dismally to help us understand and possibly solve the problem.
What is the record of progress of the Office of the Ombudsman, anyway? Are we aware of their proactive programme of action? If the women do not have a voice to speak by themselves, does the Office of the Ombudsman have a voice? Where was/is the Ombudsman when we are prevented to carry our meat into the police zone? Where was/is the Ombudsman when the law conspicuously suggests that marriage outside the police zone cannot be recognised? Is the Ombudsman aware that the General Assembly of the National Youth Council (NYC) had taken place even before the National Youth Council Act of 2009 was brought into operation? Said differently, the General Assembly was held in 2010 to elect the executive chairperson and the Board while the NYC Act was brought into operation in 2011?
The Act contains no transitional clause nor does it recognise anything that exists and is known as the National Youth Council, it merely establishes it. Our interpretation is that the General Assembly must be convened in terms of the Act. If one were to approach the court of law, all decisions of the NYC and its leadership could actually be invalidated, that is the interpretation.
Could the Ombudsman ascend to the pedestal and provide clarity and direction on this matter to safeguard the rule of law as opposed to the rule of man?
Till second half – hear and be heard.