Racist laws finally repealed

15 March 2019 | Justice

The Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) has finalised its reports on divorce and the hated red line matrimonial property regime, while also confirming the repeal of a swathe of laws and regulations linked to the racist apartheid regime.

LRDC chairperson Yvonne Dausab said the current exercise would definitely go a long way in creating a more inclusive society, “because in order to move forward as a nation, we cannot maintain apartheid legacy laws on our statute books, whether they actively affect us or not”.

“The right thing to do is to ensure that words such as 'blacks', 'natives' 'coloured' 'whites' no longer have a place in our legal vocabulary and also to get rid of any connotations in our laws which go against the values of nation-building, inclusivity and equality,” she said.

The LRDC, through the justice ministry, reviewed the entire body of 557 laws in force in Namibia in order to reform and develop Namibian laws in an Independent Namibia.

This exercise led to the Repeal of Obsolete Laws Act of 2018 (Act No. 21 of 2018), which came into force on 1 March this year. This means that all laws mentioned in the Act have been repealed or amended to the extent set out in the Act.

Dausab told Namibian Sun that it was important for the LRDC to identify obsolete laws and make recommendations for their repeal, primarily because the law establishing the LRDC required it to do so as part of its primary mandate.

Obsolete laws are defined as laws that have become outdated and are no longer necessary as they have been overtaken by new laws, but which have not been repealed.

“The exercise of repealing obsolete laws, specifically in the Namibian context, is necessary given our history of colonialism, apartheid and oppression where laws were not only made for us and without us by the colonisers and apartheid rulers but these laws were largely made to be discriminatory, to segregate and to suppress the black people while promoting and advancing the interest and welfare of the white minority,” said Dausab.

She said this was the first time since independence that the exercise of identifying and repealing obsolete laws was undertaken and it was long overdue.

“It is also interesting to note that many of the laws which were made applicable in both South Africa and Namibia during apartheid have since been repealed in South Africa, but are still applicable in Namibia because they have not been repealed here.”

Dausab said that was not to say that laws passed after independence in Namibia cannot be obsolete.

She said there was one common denominator that kept recurring throughout the list of laws that were identified as obsolete and repealed.

“This is the element of such laws or provisions propagating discrimination and prejudice towards black people in one form or another.”

At the time such laws were passed, they affected the lives of black people in Namibia in a manner that was obvious, as they advanced the policy and ideology of apartheid, said Dausab.

According to her these obsolete laws either made it illegal for black people to be found in possession of specific items, or referred to trespassing, or created institutions that were specifically established for matters pertaining to the affairs of black people, but which were inferior to the equivalent institutions created for the white minority at the time.

“The titles and provisions of these laws are also very specific to the category of persons they were made applicable to. This approach of segregating people and making laws which are applicable to specific groups cannot and could not survive in the new constitutional dispensation of Namibia after independence if they were to be enforced.

“Therefore, even if these laws survived for this long after independence, they have been redundant, of no use, unenforced and hence the need to repeal them in order to clear them from the statute books.”

She said the repeal was meant to kick-start a process of in-depth interrogation of the laws on the statute books and the effect they had on socio-economic development and generally on the advancement of the nation.

“The focus is not only on pre-independence laws, but also on laws passed after independence,” said Dausab.

“The exercise of identifying obsolete laws should in fact be an ongoing one because the legal landscape continues to evolve with time and 20, 30 and 50 years down the line, we may consider laws that we are passing today to be obsolete at that time.”

She said the current exercise would help create a more inclusive society because in order to move forward as a nation, apartheid legacy laws could not be kept on the statute books.

She said the project on obsolete laws, was complemented by another project that looked into laws that may be considered as impeding development, particularly socio-economic development. This project is currently under way.

“The LRDC is completely aware that this exercise, particularly because it is the first of its kind after independence, was long overdue.”


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