PG Imalwa faces exit

Prosecutor-general Martha Imalwa, who has been widely praised for her efforts to ensure the successful prosecution of those involved in the Fishrot bribery scandal, yesterday refused to entertain questions on whether she will reapply for her post or even whether she will be allowed to do so.

29 September 2020 | Government

WINDHOEK

ELLANIE SMIT

With the term of Prosecutor-General Martha Imalwa ending this year, the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) has advertised the position of the principal state legal officer and has set a deadline of 31 December to complete the recruitment process.

Imalwa, who has shown massive appetite in terms of spearheading the prosecution of the Fishrot bribery scandal, will see her term expire at the end of the year after having served in the position for 17 years.

She was appointed in 2004 for a 10-year term, which was renewed for seven years in October 2013 to end when she turns 60 this year.

When Namibian Sun approached Imalwa, she declined to comment. “I am very busy and not going to entertain any interviews,” she said.

The JSC said yesterday the term of appointment of the incumbent prosecutor-general is coming to an end on 31 December 2020, hence the advertisement of the position.

It said that Imalwa’s initial appointment and the extension of her contract were made on its recommendation.

“The Judicial Service Commission has decided to advertise the position to enhance the principles of transparency and accountability. Factors such as the availability of suitably qualified and experienced persons for selection, and the readiness of the selected person to start work immediately, if appointed, will determine whether the appointment process will be completed before the deadline of 31 December 2020,” the JSC added.

Requirements

In terms of the Namibian constitution, a prosecutor-general is appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission.

The involvement of the president, who is the head of the executive, in making appointments in the judiciary remains a contentious issue in Namibia - more so because the JSC itself is headed by judges appointed by the president.

According to the advertisement, the JSC is seeking qualified and experienced applicants to submit their applications no later than 16 October.

The advertisement states that the applicants must hold qualifications that entitle them to practise in all Namibian courts.

It also says applicants are required by virtue of their experience, conscientiousness and integrity to be fit and proper to be entrusted with the responsibilities of the office of the prosecutor-general.

They are required to have at least 15 years of admission as a legal practitioner, a proven track record of being able to act with integrity and impartiality, and knowledge of Namibia’s socio-economic context and government programmes.

Experience in criminal litigation or other experience in the field of criminal justice is also required.

Easier criteria

As deputy prosecutor-general responsible for the northern regions, Imalwa benefited from amendments made to the Legal Practitioners Act in 2002.

At that time the law was changed to allow prosecutors and magistrates with a minimum of five years' experience to qualify for admission as legal practitioners in the High Court, without going through the normal process of attending the Justice Training Centre and completing 900 hours’ attachment for nine months under the supervision of an admitted lawyer.

To become prosecutor-general, one is supposed to be admitted as a legal practitioner in the High Court.

As a result of these changes, some lawyers refer to the changed law as the 'Imalwa Act'.

Imalwa initially slotted into her PG role well, but in later years she came under public scrutiny over her office allegedly dragging its feet in a number of cases.

Last year several opposition parties and other commentators called for her removal as PG after she revealed that there was no hope of recovering the over N$600 million lost in the Government Institutions Pension Fund (GIPF) scandal.

On the other hand, Imalwa has been praised for working around the clock in the Fishrot scandal investigation.

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