Office of the Judiciary now independent
In line with Article 78 (5) of the Namibian Constitution, Namibia has made the monumental move to establish an independent body of the Judiciary which separates it from the Ministry of Justice. Named the ‘Office of the Judiciary’ it is administratively and financially independent.
Speaking to the Economist, The Office of the Judiciary detailed how this will affect Namibia’s legal environment, its benefit for the ordinary citizen and the governing reasons for the establishment of the Office of the Judiciary.
Ms Yvette Hüsselmann Legal/Public Relations Officer of the Office of the Judiciary explained. “The Office of the Judiciary was established by an Act of Parliament known as the Judiciary Act, 2015 (Act No. 11 of 2015).”
Before the establishment of this act, the Ministry of Justice was responsible for providing support to the Judiciary. There were Directorates within the Ministry of Justice that were responsible for the administration of the Judiciary. Since the Ministry of Justice belongs to the executive arm of the State, the fact that the Judiciary resorted, administratively, under the Ministry of Justice was not fully compliant with the principles of the separation of powers and the independence of the Judiciary.
“The Act came into operation on 31 December 2015 and it brought the Office of the Judiciary into existence. The Office of the Judiciary is an Office within the public service. It consists of staff members and judicial officers. Staff members, who are all civil servants, are appointed by the Prime Minister on the recommendation of the Chief Justice. Staff members who were previously assigned by the Ministry of Justice to the Judiciary automatically have become members of the Office of the Judiciary on the date the Act came into operation” said Ms Hüsselmann.
This legally means that the Judiciary now has its own Permanent Secretary, prepares its own budget, and determines its policies as well as priorities. The Chief Justice supervises the Judiciary, exercises responsibility over it and monitors the norms and standards for the exercise of judicial functions of all the courts.
Furthermore, Hüsselmann detailed that “As a country, Namibia stands to benefit immensely from the establishment of the Office of the Judiciary.
The development is a milestone in the country’s legal history. It puts Namibia on the map and on par with older democracies that have truly independent and functioning judiciaries.”
She explained the legal fraternity and the public at large now have the opportunity to better tap into the resources which the Judiciary has at its disposal and to benefit from the high performance culture and new work ethic that the Office of the Judiciary endeavours to inculcate in its members.
For the ordinary citizen, the Office of the Judiciary has set as its main aim not to do “business as usual” but “business extra-ordinary”. “As the Office of the Judiciary, we have embraced His Excellency the President’s Harambee Prosperity Plan and shall strive to build a rainbow Judiciary which is responsive to the maintenance of the rule of law, separation of powers and independence of the Judiciary.
This in turn will have profound impact on the ordinary citizen” Hüsselmann concluded