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By: Justicia Shipena 

Chief Justice Peter Shivute says that the judiciary’s office has unpaid invoices totalling N$28.3 million. 

The unpaid invoices are dated as of 31 March 2021 for the financial year of 2020/2021 and are related to utilities, transport, material and supplies and court fees.

Shivute said this during the opening of the legal year on Thursday morning. 

According to him, the unpaid incomes are influenced by budgets cuts as the office received N$371 152 000 compared to the allocation of N$371 200 000 for the current year. 

“We have recorded a 99% execution rate of this allocation. This is not to say that the allocation was adequate to cover all our operations. Because of the cuts to our budget, the office has unpaid invoices,” he said. 

Shivute also says the office anticipates a shortfall of N$32 052 700 on operational expenses. 

“These expense items go to the judiciary’s core function and include witness fees, interpreters and messenger fees,” he expressed.

He added that the provisional allocation of N$349 480 000 for the 2022/2023 financial year represents a reduction of 9% of the current allocation. 

“We will be expected to render the same or an increased level of service with fewer resources.”

Furthermore, Shivute said that the office had received an unqualified audit report from the Office of the Auditor-General for the 2019/2020 financial year.

“As we await the outcome of the 2020/2021 audit report, I have no reason to believe that the result will be any different. This is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the support staff of the judiciary,” said Shivute.

Cases uptake 

Speaking on the performance, He said that there is a decrease in civil case filings in the courts due to lockdowns posed by Covid-19. 

“An increase in some social evils and an appreciable decrease in others which, for their thriving, depend on freedom of movement.”

Shivute said that lower courts had recorded an increase in domestic violence cases and an increase in the number of intestate estate filings.

“There has also been a decrease in applications for liquor licences and warrants of arrest,” he said.

According to him, both the High Court and the Lower Courts have experienced a decrease in the disposal rate of cases.

“This means those courts completed fewer cases than in previous years. That is because, at the height of the pandemic, court personnel would take off sick or go into isolation or quarantine,” he said. 

Shivute stated that the disposal rates are due to witnesses being absent or lawyers suffering the same fate of isolation and quarantine, which resulted in postponed cases and backlogs developing. 

“The phenomenon also explains the drop in on-time delivery of judgments by judges of the High Court. Because it primarily does business without the presence of witnesses, there has been no significant decrease in the disposal rate of cases by the Supreme Court,” he explained. 

Statistics also demonstrate Supreme Court’s performance has remained constant in the 2021 legal year. 

Gender representations

In terms of gender balance in the office, Shivute said female magistrates constitute over 55% of the total strength of the magistracy. 

“At the High Court, we have lately experienced an improvement in the female to male ratio, and women now represent 42% of the High Court bench,” said Shivute. 

However, he notes that there are no female judges at the Supreme Court. 

“The issue has been the subject of intense debate in the Judicial Service Commission, and we will work towards addressing the imbalance.”

Shivute further stated that 94% of cases of misconduct dealt with by the human resources are from lower courts. 

“Of this number, 65% involved theft or fraud. This is intolerable,” he stressed. 

Back to the basis of the courts 

President Hage said the independence of the judiciary is constitutionally guaranteed, and the opening signals the commencement of the official business of all three State organs. 

He said the principle of non-interference is entrenched in the constitution.

“Members of Cabinet or the Legislature are enjoined not to interfere with judicial officers in the exercise of their judicial functions but to accord required assistance that will enhance the courts’ independence, dignity, and effectiveness,” said Geingob.

He added that the judiciary has, over the years, displayed the capability to carry out its functions without fear or favour.

Geingob further implored role players in the administration of justice to ensure equitable access to justice and speedy finalisation of matters before the courts.

“It is clear that the escalating volumes of un-cleared backlog contribute to negative public perceptions and experiences. This, in turn, clouds the overall image of the administration of justice which creates a lopsided image of the rule of law in the country.”

Geingob says access to legal services and justice is important anchors to promoting and fulfilling the right to a fair trial as provided in the Namibian constitution. 

Therefore, he stressed that Namibia should maintain a sense of social justice when administering the law. 

“Let us ensure that every member of our society, no matter their race, tribe, gender, age or social status, can have confidence that they have access to legal services and fair trial. Let us continue to work together, hold hands and ensure that we establish a Namibia in which no citizen shall feel left out.”

Justicia Shipena

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