Accountability is not just talk

28 June 2018 | Opinion

It is an unfortunate and sad truth that the final fig leaf for the corrupt, especially those in government, is often the veil of secrecy called 'national security interests'.

Using this veil has in the past stifled and stymied debate, as well as accountability and transparency.

It is through this prism that a recent High Court judgement against the country's spy agency must be seen, as the court clearly articulated that the actions of the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) are subject to judicial oversight.

This is so because it operates in the context of a democratic state, founded on the rule of law, which subjects all public officials and all those exercising public functions, whether openly or covertly in the interest of the state, to judicial scrutiny.

In his ruling on the matter that saw the spy agency trying to gag The Patriot weekly newspaper, Judge Harald Geier said although legislation may exist to protect national security interests, the law in general can't be used in instances where the media may potentially be uncovering illegal and corrupt activities.

With the ink on this landmark judgement barely dry, government and its spy agency have now chosen to take the matter on appeal in the Supreme Court.

While it may be their right, although they are effectively using tax money to attempt to reverse a win for democracy, it is a very unfortunate situation indeed.

As the official opposition pointed out during a media conference on Tuesday, if this case is allowed to continue it may well lead to the victimisation of journalists and politicians, who raise issues related to the spy agency.

While highlighting his concerns, Popular Democratic Movement leader McHenry Venaani said President Hage Geingob, as the head of the country, should save the nation's money “and tell the spy agency not to continue with this frivolous appeal”.

We would take this argument slightly further and challenge Geingob, who has always purported to be a champion of freedom of the press, as well as transparency and accountability, to carefully think through the implications of the Supreme Court challenge.

His government now risks being on the wrong side of history on this matter and may inadvertently be showing its true colours.

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