Constitution is a covenant

Hailed as one of the most progressive constitutions in southern Africa, the benefit of freedom is yet to be felt by all.

08 February 2019 | Local News

Namibians are happy they have a constitution and are proud of its lofty promises, but feel it is yet to come to life to improve the lives of ordinary Namibians.

Namibia marks Constitution Day on 9 February each year.

The much-acclaimed Namibian constitution was adopted in 1990 with 71 signatories and provides a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state is governed.

Former lawmaker and social activist Rosa Namises says the provisions of the Namibian constitution are supposed to improve the lives of Namibians but that has not happened yet.

She believes that annual celebrations should actually lay bare practical examples of what was achieved for the ordinary Namibian in a certain time.

“We have not done that; all that we have is to show this is the building built by the Chinese lady in Karibib. This is the flat we have erected in Windhoek. This is the money that was stolen. It is only those things. So to me our constitution has not made a change in the lives of ordinary Namibians,” she said.

The ombudsman, Advocate John Walters, says the shameful fact that Namibians are dying of hepatitis proves that the government has failed to deliver the provisions of the constitution.

Walters says the constitution is indeed a living document but it remains the responsibility of the Namibian government to uplift the lives of its citizens.

“The constitution cannot improve the ordinary citizen's life. The constitution cannot provide houses, neither can it provide us adequate standards of living. That is not the job of the constitution.

“The constitution set the principles and standards with which the government should comply in order to make these rights real entitlements for the people. And the government has not done that, not as far as economic and social rights are concerned,” he says.

Walters refers to the fact that President Hage Geingob has declared the mushrooming of shacks a humanitarian crisis, saying it points to government failure to provide access to sanitation and housing.

“More than half of the population do not have access to toilets. In this modern world in Namibia, people are still killed by hepatitis E, a preventable disease. We fought for the right to vote and now our people cannot even exercise the right to vote,” he said.

He added that Namibians must ensure the constitution remains a living document.

Information and communication technology minister Stanley Simataa says the constitution must serve as a fundamental framework which guides all dimensions of the government's operations and obligations.

“That is how critical the constitution is. It is a covenant. There is no modern state that can function without a constitution.

“I know that some of our fellow citizens are frustrated, however they need to understand the complexities of what government is doing in an attempt to improve the livelihood of its citizens,” he says.

He adds that improving citizens' lives is an ongoing undertaking that will never reach its conclusion.

He believes there has been substantive improvement in the lives of Namibians even though the government has not managed to address the plight of all Namibians.


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