Response to a statement by Mr E. Kaaronda
on behalf of
The Law Society of Namibia
2nd February 2010
The attention of the Law Society of Namibia was drawn to certain statements which were apparently made on behalf of the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW), by its Secretary General Mr. Kaaronda, which were reported on in the local media and to which the Law Society is constrained to react.
The Law Society takes particular issue with the unspecified claims by Mr. Kaaronda to the effect that ‘some High Court Judges have apparently presided over cases in which their spouses, close relatives and business associates had vested interests’ and that he believes that there are cases decided by our courts which, if tested properly, can reveal certain traces of bias towards or in favour of such relatives, spouses and business associates’.
While not detracting from Mr. Kaaronda’s prerogative to exercise the NUNW’s rights of freedom of speech and of fair comment the Law Society is nevertheless of the belief that such general, unqualified and unsubstantiated statements reflect negatively on the entire judiciary and the administration of justice, which statements also undermine the dignity, repute and authority of our courts.
Such statements would obviously also cause great embarrassment to the entire Supreme and High Court benches and could even influence, intimidate and obstruct the courts in the conduct of the important role which they play in any democratic society.
If the NUNW indeed has facts to substantiate the general statements of its Secretary- General this would obviously also be cause for grave concern also to the Law Society and would have to be investigated.
It is however at the same time pointed out that sight should not be lost of the various mechanisms which are in place in our judicial system through which such serious allegations can be taken up by the affected parties in a meaningful manner and according to recognised rule of law procedures and remedies.
On the issue of forcing judges and magistrates by law to declare every direct and indirect economic and commercial interest we would like to inform the public that the High Court Act 16 of 1990 specifically provides that :
“ No judge of the High Court shall, unless authorised thereto by the Judicial Service Commission accept or hold any other office of profit, or receive in respect of any service rendered by him or her any remuneration other than the remuneration contemplated by law.
The Judges Remuneration and Pension Acts, as amended, then provide specifically for the remuneration income and benefits of judges of the High Court.
Finally and while it is kept in mind that judges, as public figures, are not immune from criticism, we would nevertheless like to impress upon democratically elected leaders, holding public office, to comment responsibly on rule of law issues in public, with due deference to their office and keeping in mind that judges and magistrates, though the nature of such office, cannot publicly respond to such public statements and criticisms.
ADV HARALD GEIER
PRESIDENT OF THE LAW SOCIETY OF NAMIBIA
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