By Hileni Nembwaya
LEADERS representing eight different traditional authorities in Oshana, Oshikoto and Ohangwena, have voiced their frustration over the ongoing challenges facing traditional courts, including officials being abused when they deliver summonses or when proceedings are in progress.
The leaders raised their concerns when they met with the Justice Minister, Albert Kawana, during a consultation workshop in Ondangwa this past Saturday, aimed at assessing the effectiveness of traditional courts.
Petrus Haipanda, who spoke on behalf of the Ombalantu Traditional Court, said that court messengers are often attacked and threatened by the community, when delivering summonses.
“We are requesting the ministry to allow police officers to be present at traditional courts, because sometimes we are being threatened by the offenders, as many get aggressive towards the elders. We are also requesting the ministry to increase the allowances for court assessors and messengers,” he said.
Martha Alukolo, who represented the Ondonga Traditional Authority, informed Kawana that their courtroom is too small, and thus it needs to be expanded, in order to accommodate more people.
The authority is also said to have encountered a number of cases, in which people are fighting over land and the authority has no mandate over these issues.
“We are faced with challenges of offenders bringing their own lawyers at community courts and these private lawyers hamper our court proceedings. We are humbly requesting the ministry to reconsider this approach. We are also requesting the ministry to intervene,” said Alukolo.
The traditional authorities of Uukwanyama, Uukwambi, Ongandjera, Uukwaludhi and Uukolonkadhi echoed the same sentiments, while also requesting for an increase in salaries of court clerks and assessors.
Currently, court assessors are paid an amount of N$4 per hour and N$32 per day, in line with the Community Courts Act of 2003.
Kawana said that it has taken nearly two years to undertake the consultation process, due to logistical reasons.
“Knowing how traditional courts systems work, it was deliberate that I give you sufficient time to consult with your communities, so that at the end of the exercise, we can successfully amend the law, to benefit our nation,” Kawana said.
“It is you who are in touch with our community members, who appear before our community courts. So I came here to learn from you, so that I can take your recommendations and accommodate them.”
Kawana added that access to services should not be a privilege, but rather the right of every Namibian.
“In this phase of the economic struggle, a Namibian citizen, who is owed a chicken by a defendant, should be able to approach a community court for compensation with a chicken of an equal value, or monetary compensation to the value of a chicken, without hiring a lawyer. Let us, therefore, propose changes to the Community Courts Act, which will change people’s lives for the better.
“Let us propose changes that will bring justice to the communities that we lead. Let us bring justice to the families, let us bring justice to the victims,” said Kawana.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015