WINDHOEK - Activist Job Amupanda has come out guns blazing against the prioritisation of establishing a commercial court in April this year, instead of a small claims court.
Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Judiciary Tousy Namiseb announced last year that the commercial court would be operational by April 2 this year.
Amupanda instead proposes that the judiciary establishes a small claims court (SCC) where people who cannot afford the hefty fees of lawyers can go to have their day in court.
In a letter addressed to Chief Justice Peter Shivute and Justice Minister Sacky Shanghala, titled “Discriminatory plans of establishing a Commercial Court for the rich minority on 2 April ahead of the Small Claims Court for the poor majority,” Amupanda implored the minister and chief justice to halt the implementation of the commercial court until the SCC is established and to concentrate on such implementation with the same “vigour and speed” as with the commercial court.
Amupanda also suggested that the justice sector as a whole discuss the threats to the independence of the judiciary from sectoral interests – both domestic and foreign. This, he said, is in relation to concerns by the World Bank on doing business in Namibia ostensibly because of the long delay in finalising court cases. According to Amupanda, the rationale behind the commercial court is to respond to the concerns of these “foreign capitalist institutions” opposed to the interests of the marginalised majority of Namibians.
“It is, therefore, without a doubt that the decision to create a commercial court is (1) a response to external capitalist concerns/demands and thus has no domestic origin, (2) is meant to improve the capitalist ranking by one external institution and (3) has been arrived at solely for the purposes outlined in (1) and (2) without due regard to domestic priorities and challenges regarding access to justice,” the youth activist said.
“All these external demands and capitulation happen in the context of a country that has been constantly ranked as one of the highest unequal nations (gap between rich and poor) on the face of the earth. The Human Development Index by the United Nations Development Program – a more credible institution than the World Bank that contributed to the African debt crisis of the 1970s and 1980s – has constantly ranked Namibia as one of the lowest performing nations on human development,” said Amupanda.
He added that to believe that the government and the judiciary are not in the least concerned with such inequality and the poor by choosing to prioritise the rich by establishing courts to speedily conclude their disputes, increasing access for the elite at the expense of the poor, is traumatising and heartbreaking.
Amupanda claims that the idea of a small claims court had already been mooted in 1994 by the then chairman of the Law Reform Development Commission, Uutoni Nujoma, to then justice minister Dr Ngarikutuke Tjiriange, in a report recommending the establishment of a small claims court. And, said Amupanda, the commission did not only recommend the establishment of the SCC, but also prepared a draft bill for the attention of the minister and for subsequent tabling in parliament.
“But, sadly, the SCC bill, a noble initiative to benefit the oppressed poor masses of our people, has been on the tables of justice executives and stakeholders for 25 years while it has taken the justice sector a fraction of that time to respond to the interests of the capitalists.”
He further stressed the SCC will be an important contributor of access to justice as it will serve the majority of people who have been segregated from justice by money. “If anything, this is what the judiciary and all principal actors in the justice system must be advocating for with steam, urgency, determination and care,” Amupanda said, adding: “The fact that the commercial court for the rich is set to begin in two months’ time is one of the greatest betrayals of the poor by our justice system.”
2019-01-15 09:04:17 6 months ago