Legal architect of the Namibian Constitution dies
Professor Marinus Wiechers, the chief architect behind the Namibian Constitution crafted by the Constitutional Committee in a record 80 days at the beginning of 1990, died last Friday evening, 31 August, in a hospice in Pretoria. Prof Wiechers was 81 years old
From around 1987, Prof Wiechers was a frequent visitor to Namibia, assisting with and advising on the consultative process that started in that year which would eventually lead to the democratic independence elections of early December 1989. After the elections, the 72-member Constitutional Assembly started work on the process to put together the document that would become Namibia’s Constitution. The working group was later reduced to 21 individuals nominated by their parties to expedite the work. In this process, Prof Wiechers was the main consultant, advising on elements of the constitution, its drafting and its legal implications.
Early in the process, SWAPO’s submission for a constitution was adopted as the working document, and the committee only had to discuss those areas where differences surfaced. This process was facilitated throughout by Wiechers, already then an internationally recognised authority on constitutional law.
Professer Wiechers taught constitutional and international law at the University of South Africa for almost forty years. In his last years as an academic before his retirement in 1998, he was the vice chancellor and principal of the university.
When talking about his role in drafting the Namibian Constitution, he often referred to the need to reconcile legality and legitimacy. This theme was echoed some twenty years after Independence in a publication commissioned by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and edited by Tony Boesl together with local academics Nico Horn and André du Pisane. Professor Wiechers also contributed a chapter to this commemorative academic paper.
Commenting on the constitutional process and Wiechers’ contribution, Professor Peter Katjavivi, wrote “The Namibian Constitution is regarded as one of the most modern and progressive basic laws worldwide, with constitutional principles, a bill of rights, the separation of powers, and democratic order. After 20 years, Namibia’s constitutional democracy is formally fully established. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land and the normative guideline for the entire citizenry and its government.”