There is nothing more rewarding for any legal head than seeing justice being served – not only for the victim but also for the wrongly accused.
The same rings true for Natjirikasorua Tjirera, a Legal Aid Counsel in the Directorate of Legal Aid within the Ministry of Justice.
Natji, as Tjirera is affectionately known, has been a pillar of hope in many in a hopeless situation – and according to him, the tears of joy that pours out of the eyes of wrongly accused persons – upon their acquittal – kept him going back to the courtrooms for the past 10 years.
“Many people who cannot afford legal fees lose hope in the justice system, and the realisation that they have been acquitted at no cost brings them immense satisfaction. Their appreciation, when that happens, is priceless – and knowing that you have restored hope where there was hopelessness is very satisfying,” Tjirera, who cites it as his duty to represent indigent clients who have cases in the courts, told this newspaper this week.
Citing some of his exploits in the court of law, Tjirera recalled a situation during which he was representing a murder accused woman, whose chances of an acquittal was close to zero – and ‘because of her peculiar financial position, she had lost hope.
“She asked me to fight so much that she does not get a long prison sentence, and pleaded with me that she wanted to be part of her children’s lives after her sentence. As the case progressed, she came to me, and asked what I am up to, since she could see hope for a complete acquittal, but she remained realistic. At the time of her judgment, she came with family members, who believed they came to say goodbye to her. There was excitement and joy and tears and all,” Tjirera recalled.
He further recounted another matter in which a client was acquitted of murder in his absence, after which he learned that the father burst into tears of joy.
“They called to thank me, and their gratitude and excitement were palpable. Those are moments that made me believe that I was born for the courtroom,” Tjirera stressed, adding that he represents clients in civil litigation as well – even though he predominantly does criminal cases.
“I also give legal advice as requested by the Director of Legal Aid,” he added.
Life in the civil service
The Windhoek-born Ovitoto native has it that he joined the civil service in October 2011. However, this was not before leaving notable footprints in the country’s political space.
“I joined student activism in my high school years and immediately after that became active in student politics and eventually graduated to mainstream politics, where I served as a political activist before going to law school,” Tjirera revealed.
He further maintained that during his political activism days, he remained on the left of the political divide and was always keen on serving the poor and marginalised members of the community.
“When the opportunity presented itself for me to serve the poor and the marginalised through providing legal representation to those who cannot afford it, I simply could not resist it,” he said.
He revealed that he never saw himself working for the public service – but in hindsight, this has been a memorable ten years to date.
He further revealed that being a lawyer is a challenging job, as it comes with a lot of reading and the need for extensive research.
According to the outspoken Tjirera, it is paramount for a lawyer in any trial to be well prepared to be able to present a formidable argument in the interest of your client.
“It is imperative that you provide the best service to your client – and with that comes the need to do a lot of research and the need to be well informed on the subject matter to be litigated upon,” he said.
His ministry, he added, deals with justice – and it is the custodian of hope for a fair and just society.
He stressed it is where the rule of law manifests itself in all its forms – and as a law graduate, the Ministry of Justice is the first port of call for him.
“In short, I am where my heart desires to be as well as where my education dictates me to be. The opportunity to serve the motherland is for some of us a calling that we could not achieve in our days in politics, so having been given the opportunity to serve the motherland and her children without them paying me is something I love and enjoy,” Tjirera said.
The political maverick in him almost popped out when queried about the public perception that civil servants are lazy and almost useless.
Tjirera said: “That statement could never be further from the truth. The culture of service in Namibia is itself rotten wherever you go but to stigmatise the public service and single it out is unfair, in my opinion. The Directorate of Legal Aid has been growing as a directorate, and many people trust legal aid lawyers now. It is because of the productive and efficient public servants that you find in this Directorate that the confidence in legal aid lawyers has grown in leaps and bounds.”
Queried on whether he has plans of checking out of the public service anytime soon, he does not mince his words.
“I have been here for ten years now, and I plan to remain for a few more years. I cannot really tell you how long, but I can say with certainty that I still have some time provided, of course, that I get treated well and afforded the respect I believe I deserve,” he said.
“One thing is for sure that I will be litigating in the public service for a while. I might, with time, quit the public service to go to the bar and spread my wings. But I believe that I was singularly born for the courtroom, and I shall remain in the courtroom – either as a civil servant or in private practice for as long as my faculties allow me to,” he ended.