Pohamba misses the point

27 February 2014 Author  

front President 28 febLEGAL practitioners have dismissed the Cabinet resolutions announced by President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week as a means to address the escalating killing of women in Namibia as misplaced. In his recent address to the nation, President Pohamba announced proposed amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 and the Correctional Service Act, of 2012. However, lawyer with a human rights background Adda Angula said that there was no problem with the law and that Government was barking up the wrong tree in this instance.

“I don’t think that this is a matter of law. The law is clear; the crime is punishable and the punishment is severe.”

“You will note that the perpetrators often turn themselves in to the police or commit suicide, as if they did not ever intend to escape the consequences of their actions,” Angula said.

She further remarked that the criminals do not even attempt to evade justice or conceal the act.

They behaved as if they fully accepted what they had done- almost like a terrorist would publicly take responsibility for an attack in a somewhat proud and righteous manner.

She referred to the first proposed amendment that called for the tightening of the bail requirements in cases of gender-based violence.

Angula argued that the criminal procedures law already states that when considering bail for certain serious offences, such as murder, the courts may take into account the interests of the community and the administration of justice.

The lawyer said that in practice, one saw courts deny bail in rape cases and brutal murder cases because of the outcry from the community, because it felt outraged by the nature of the crime committed.

She admitted that often the courts are quick to state that the community’s outcry should not be an overriding consideration, but nonetheless she highlighted that it was always a relevant consideration.

“So you see, the law is there in any case. In this proposal it sounds as though the refusal or ‘tightening’ of bail requirements is intended as a punishment and this of course is not how it works.”

“The purpose of arrest is to secure the attendance of an accused at trial where guilt will be determined.

“The denial of bail cannot be used as an anticipatory punishment as much as we may argue that in these cases guilt is obvious,” Angula stated.

These facts suggest that both the president and his Cabinet may be ignorant of the law or that they were merely trying to appease public opinion and appear to be taking action.

Angula further said that the killing of women and girls by their partners is a psychological and social issue.

The problem was rooted in a culture of sexism and male chauvinism, which men could no longer sustain in a world where women are increasingly asserting their power.

“There is insecurity in the men of this nation who have come to realise that women can be equal or better than them on all fronts, except for in physical strength.

“Men are struggling to find their relevance and are struggling to assert themselves in the only way they know how.”

“My suggestion is to find new ways for men to assert themselves, meaning new ways to assert their relevance in society, so that their sense of worth and value is not tied to their ability to provide for and rule over the opposite sex,” she said.

A letter addressed to President Pohamba and posted on the Facebook page of a local weekly newspaper, entitled “No no no” argues the same point as Angula with regards to the proposed amendments to the law.

“I hope the President does not make the mistake of knee-jerk legislation. You cannot legislate against social evils that you have not even begun to understand, and clearly, you are under pressure to act, it being an election year and all.

“But please don’t let your legacy be reactionary laws that will cause more problems than it seeks to solve. I can tell you off the bat that proposals 1 to 3 are unlikely to withstand constitutional scrutiny anyway.

“The law available is sufficient because suspects are almost always immediately arrested and once tried convicted; the law also has mechanisms in place for the protection of women and children. It’s not about the law.

“I also don’t think it’s about prayer or morality. I would encourage you to get on board social scientists to assist you in figuring out the psychology of this nation.

All in all prayers will not hurt but passing reactionary laws will almost always lead [to] drastic consequences. Don’t do it,” the letter read.
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