Was Justice Shivute with his boss?

13 February 2020 | Opinion

The involvement of the head of state in the appointment of High Court and Supreme Court judges, albeit on recommendations of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), creates unpopular perceptions.

Yesterday, what appeared to be an innocent photo of President Hage Geingob walking with Chief Justice Peter Shivute at the opening of the new legal year sparked distasteful comments.

The naughty kids of social media linked the photo to the recent ruling in the Supreme Court, read out by Justice Shivute, about the use of EVMs in the November election.

Being with the president yesterday, Justice Shivute was, technically speaking, with his boss, although then president Sam Nujoma approved his appointment in 2004 on recommendation of the JSC.

This principle is simply untenable. The damning allegations that our courts are 'captured', which President Geingob rebuffed yesterday, cannot be treated in isolation.

A portion of that perception is borne out of the way judges are appointed in the country, particularly the involvement of the head of state, no matter how trivial such involvement may seem.

The same concern applies to the fact that the head of state gives the green light to the appointment of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN). By virtue of being president, even when they seek no re-election, a head of state has direct interest in the electoral process and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the appointment of those in charge of such processes.

At best, parliament, which is a conglomeration of different political orientations, is best suited to appoint ECN commissioners, judges, justices and even the director-general of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

This way, the appointees, who are human and will naturally feel a sense of indebtness, would only owe their loyalty to the public whose diverse interest is represented in parliament.

The current situation defeats, hands down, the principle of separation of power. The president, as head of the executive arm of government, should not, even remotely, be involved in anything regarding the judiciary.

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