By: Kelvin Chiringa
The Windhoek High Court has expressed that while it sympathised with same-sex couples who seek to be legally accepted by the Namibian government, it had no power to make such a ruling because of a two-decades-old Supreme Court judgment.
The Frank Judgment delivered some 20 years ago has made it law that same-sex marriages and couples will not be recognised under Namibian law.
As such, High Court judge, Hannelie Prinsloo, has ruled that the couples, Namibian citizen Johann Potgieter (Namibian), Daniel Digashu (South African), Anette Seiler (Namibian), and Anita Seiler-Lille (German), must take up the fight to the Supreme Court and debate the law there.
The couples are seeking that government must recognise their marriages that were made possible in other countries to be treated as any other families without prejudice and segregation.
Homosexuality continues to be illegal in Namibia, and Seiler-Lille received the judgment with a mixture of sorrow and hope.
“Of course, we are disappointed. But we understand the decision by the court, and we think there are good news and bad news, and we will most probably go on to the supreme court and change the current Supreme Court ruling so that it reflects justice and so on,” she said.
The couples’ lawyer Carli Schlickerling said they always knew that they would end up at the Supreme court.
She said she will now look into sorting out the couple’s permits issue at home affairs so they can hang on to Namibia.
“To put it in layman’s terms, I think the court said to us this morning look we want to help you, we believe that you should be succeeding on the constitutional issues, but we are bound in terms of the rule of law to the previous decision by Frank in the Supreme Court, and that has to be dealt with by the supreme court.
“If the judgment is to be accepted as it was written today, it seems that the court is setting out to the Supreme Court why we should succeed on appeal. I am sure the government will have their arguments ready for us. But I guess we all knew we would end up in the Supreme Court in any event. So, what better way but for the upper court in this country to make this decision,” she said.
Lawyer Raymond Heathcote said it could take two years to have the appeal finally brought to the land’s highest court.
But gay activist Wendelinus Amutenya said he would be bringing another court challenge against the government following Monday.
He is one year into his marriage with Immanuel Jeremiah, and they had to tie the knot in South Africa due to the Namibian laws.
“This judgment means a lot to us; however, we are also launching our case as well, I think, by Monday because we feel that the government is discriminating against us as couples. We will take another route because we are both Namibians, as opposed to the applicants where one is a foreigner, and one is a Namibian. We are trying to make sure that our rights are respected.
“We have so much confidence in our legal team, Isak and Associates. They are going to study this judgment, and I am sure they will take a different route apart from this one. We are confident we will come out successfully,” he said.
Amutenya is in a one-year marriage with Immanuel Jeremiah after they married in South Africa.