WINDHOEK - One of Namibia’s newest law firms, only established in March this year, has embarked on a journey to provide free legal advice for victims of domestic violence.
Former magistrate Jermaine Muchali told New Era in an interview that the plight of victims of domestic violence has deeply touched him when he was assigned to the domestic violence court in 2016.
According to Muchali, there is only one court and one magistrate to deal with domestic violence cases in Windhoek.
“The majority of people that flock to the magistrate’s court for domestic violence issues are poor and cannot afford legal representation and in many cases lost their cases even before they appear,” he said.
“That is where my firm comes in. We provide them with advice on how to prepare their affidavits, assist in applications for protection orders, represent them in court for free if needed, assisting in enforcement of protection orders, assist in registering criminal cases related to domestic violence cases where the need may be.”
According to Muchali, the current domestic violence set-up is operational, but not functional and he plans to approach policy-makers to strengthen the Act.
“I wish to work with the Office of the Judiciary in respect of amending the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act with regards to the enforcement of protection orders amongst some issues.”
Muchali added South Africa’s law makes provision for warrants of arrests to be issued for perpetrators, while in Namibia the police will just search for such perpetrators without search warrants.
According to him, he plans to approach the High Court on an urgent basis to compel the police to open criminal cases in instances where the police refuse to do so when requested by citizens.
He will also apply for cost orders against the police in such instances, Muchali promised.
Muchali added the stigma attached to domestic violence was also an issue.
According to him, most victims of domestic violence are women and they are ashamed of being abused, so they keep it a secret.
He advised victims to speak out.
“This is the only way to get the message out that abusing your partner or your children for that matter is wrong,” Muchali stated.
He said he started his outreach to get that message across and is currently using social media to alert society about his free legal advice.
According to Muchali, he has the support of many of his colleagues in the legal fraternity, but singled out former magistrate Ruth Herunga for her unwavering involvement in his cause.
Herunga has been his mouthpiece through her social media accounts and to date, he has managed to help about 50 people suffering from domestic abuse.
He further said that he has received support in kind from the American Embassy and Lawyers Without Borders and wants to create a foundation that mainly focus on domestic violence issues at large.