Hands off Judiciary - Geingob

The head of state, who won big last week when the Supreme Court dismissed an application to nullify last year's November presidential election, has come out swinging in defence of the country's judges.

13 February 2020 | Justice

President Hage Geingob has cautioned Namibians not to question the integrity of the Judiciary, because that would cause chaos or anarchy.

Geingob was speaking yesterday during the official opening of the legal year.

“I fear that reckless and gratuitous allegations aimed at impugning the integrity of the judiciary may lead to a situation where members of the public could lose faith in the judiciary and start resorting to taking the law into their own hands; something that has proved in other countries to be the mother of all chaos and anarchy,” Geingob said.

Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) during the November 2019 presidential election was unconstitutional, but said no evidence was placed before it to suggest that this affected the overall outcome of the election.

The court, for this and other reasons, thus refused to nullify the result and order a rerun, as requested by former independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula and other applicants.

Itula has launched a fresh application in the Supreme Court to have this decision reviewed.

His lawyers, Angula Incorporated, filed a new application at the Supreme Court in terms of Article 81 of the Namibian Constitution.

Article 81 provides for a reversal of a decision of the Supreme Court by itself. Itula had eaten into Geingob's support base by garnering 29% of the vote, compared to Geingob's 56%. In 2014 Geingob had swept to power with 85% of the vote.

The head of state, who is scheduled to be sworn in for his second term on 21 March, said yesterday that the government would ensure that the Judiciary was strengthened not only in terms of its structural independence, but to operate in an environment where it is not subjected to undue public or institutional pressure.

He added that the Judiciary should not be unnecessarily and overly sensitive to justified comments or criticism of its decisions.

“It is in fact dangerous and unfair to men and women who have been called to the bench and who undertake the difficult job of dispensing justice on a daily basis, to be subjected to unjustified ridicule or insults because of the decisions they make in accordance with our laws,” he said.

The president's remarks come at a time when Namibia is divided about the recent Supreme Court ruling on the election challenge brought by Itula.

The Landless People's Movement (LPM) claimed last week that the Judiciary had been “captured” by Swapo.

LPM president Bernadus Swartbooi, a former Swapo member and deputy minister of land reform in Geingob's first term, made the claim following the Supreme Court election judgment.

“The Supreme Court as a representative of the Judiciary and, in fact, the entire Judiciary is but a captured system of the deep state that represents Swapo and was never going to order the setting aside of the presidential election,” he said.

Courts are impartial - Shivute

Chief Justice Petrus Shivute said yesterday that 2019 was an eventful year for the Judiciary, and 2020 promised to be no different.

“The courts at all levels were called upon to decide very important matters affecting our nation's affairs. From matters politico-legal involving elections to criminal cases that attracted immense public interest and debate. The judiciary has done its best to deal with them all in keeping with what the constitution demands: impartiality, independence and administering justice without fear or favour,” Shivute said.

He said although he did not expect everyone to agree with the outcomes, he was happy that the decisions taken by the courts were generally respected.

“The most important attribute of what we do as a judiciary which, I hope, engenders public confidence, is that our work is performed in public for all to observe and that we give reasons for our decisions except where the law provides otherwise.”

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