MARIENTAL˗ Justice minister Yvonne Dausab said traditional authorities are responsible to provide guidance to communities on the creation of wealth, preservation of cultural practices and maintenance of peace and stability.
This was her view during a recent stakeholder engagement with them and community court officials in Mariental.
“Opposed to the past where it was referred to as Bantu courts, which brings about division, the Namibian constitution now makes provision for all customary, common and statutory law to be subjected under it,” she explained.
She also said the main function of community courts should be that of resolving disputes between two parties in a given community within a traditional authority.
Dausab continued that the biggest challenge faced by community courts is that of the diverse customs and traditions within traditional authorities not coded
and documented for ease of reference.
“These values differ from community to community and furthermore dictates in some instances on how these courts are functioning,” she added. The minister advised that these two parties should agree which areas community courts should
deal with and how far their jurisdiction stretch.
She urged traditional authorities to
assist community courts with resources when the need arises, adding that community courts are under their umbrella and are useful in addressing community disputes and the transgression of customary laws.
“Major crimes such as rape, murder and robbery should rather be dealt with by criminal courts of law whilst community courts should concentrate more on resolving conflicts between members of such communities,” she said.
She also said they should focus on manners to maintain peace and welfare in their communities.
In his contribution, Hardap governor Salmon April said traditional authorities, as the first layer of leadership within a community, should learn the practice of tolerance.
“They should learn to share and live together in harmony,” he explained.
The governor said it is good for national leaders to visit regions but urged ministers to also visit the broader community.
“This is a sign that they recognise regional government functioning as direct representatives of the central government. If a person like a justice minister visits your region, there will be so many questions from communities on the interpretation and implementation of the country’s laws but then it should be done on a semi-casual platform instead of official meetings,” said the governor.
Chief of the Kai-||Khaun Nama tribe Petrus Kooper said community members prefer to take cases, even some petty cases, to the magistrate’s court rather than using community courts because the community members lack trust in those responsible for community courts.
“Even though community courts are effective, some people prefer to go to the police and press charges as the pace at which a magistrate’s courts deals with cases is faster. Before community courts were recognized by government, we had our own justice system under the traditional authority aimed at keeping stability and peace within our community and this will continue even though government demolishes community courts,” he stressed.