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Kawana urges traditional courts to respect the Constitution
July 27, 2004

THE community courts run by traditional authorities in Namibia should keep in mind that the justice they dispense must also adhere to the standards set by the country's Constitution, Justice Minister Albert Kawana told traditional authorities in the Caprivi Region last week.

Kawana was at Katima Mulilo on Thursday to address a workshop on the Community Courts Act that was passed by Parliament last year.

The meeting was attended by traditional and other leaders from the region, including representatives from the Mafwe, Masubia and Mayeyi traditional authorities.

Kawana told participants that the Community Courts Act should empower traditional courts as under the new law they would be able to call on the Police to enforce their decisions.

Previously traditional courts encountered difficulties when it came to enforcing their decisions.

The Minister pointed out that traditional courts were the closest source of justice for many of Namibia's people like subsistence farmers who live in rural communities scattered across the country.

These communities would usually turn to traditional authorities, which applied their customs and traditions in courts presided over by chiefs and headmen.

They resolved disputes and dispensed justice, Kawana explained.

Regarding this situation, he explained that:"Customary law and traditional courts enjoy wide acceptance among the Namibian people.

It should always be remembered that customary law is not the law of the minority but the law of the majority of the people of Namibia.

It is for this reason that Namibia should firmly reject cultural genocide that imperialists and neo-imperialists are trying to commit against the people of Africa.

We should do away with the negative conception of regarding a civilised African as the one who speaks with a British or American accent."

Customary law and traditional courts did not only play an important part in the daily lives of many Namibians, but were also recognised by the Constitution, Kawana remarked.

But he warned that, in administering community courts, traditional authorities should also stick to the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Stated the Minister:"We must avoid applying customary law that includes torture, or, may I say panelbeating, because that is strictly prohibited by the supreme law of the land, the Namibian Constitution."

Kawana added that he was calling on traditional authorities to observe and protect fundamental human rights and freedoms that were guaranteed in the Constitution.

"The core function of customary law in the administration of justice is to balance the rights of the accused person in civil cases with those of the victim," Kawana further stated:"Where it is proven that the accused person committed a wrong against the victim, the victim is awarded compensation.

This principle should continue to be the core function of our traditional authorities in the administration of justice."

Source: The Namibian News paper

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