The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, by Erika von Wietersheim
This printed edition of the The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, published by the Namibia Scientific Society and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in 2015, was compiled and edited by Erika von Wietersheim.
Namibia's Constitution: an extraordinary document
In November 1989, after a long and drawn-out struggle for independence, Namibia elected a Constituent Assembly under the auspices of the United Nations. On 21 November its 72 members convened for the first time under the chairmanship of Dr. Hage Geingob, who became Namibia's third President in 2015. Only 80 days later, on 9 February 1990, the Constitution was adopted. It came into force on Independence Day on 21 March 1990. Namibia's independence was achieved during a time of political upheaval both in the Western world and in Southern Africa. In Europe, the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked the end of the Cold War, and in South Africa Nelson Mandela was released after 23 years of imprisonment in February 1990, marking the end of Apartheid. Both events had a decisive impact on the independence process in Namibia. The Namibian Constitution, written exactly between those two events, is an extraordinary document in many ways. It was the first time that a former African colony became independent on the basis of a Constitution which was part and parcel of an international process and not a unilateral act on the part of the African state. Several proposals for this Constitution were laid on the table and discussed (including the SWAPO draft Constitution and the 1982 Constitutional Principles), and the content of the final Constitution is a reflection of a give and take process and numerous compromises. It contains elements of international law and the entrenchment of universal human rights as well as reference to the troubled history of the country that was a German colony for three decades (until 1915) and afterwards lived under South African foreign rule for 75 long years (until 1990). The desire for reconciliation as well as for unity, justice and liberty was therefore of fundamental importance. The 72 elected representatives of the Constituent Assembly belonged to seven different political parties, whose members had stood against each other as enemies during civil war in Namibia and the war of liberation. And yet they wrote this Constitution in an atmosphere that was characterized by mutual respect, openness and political magnanimity. After only 80 days the Constitution was adopted not only by a majority, but unanimously. Since then it has been the supreme law of the Namibian nation with which all laws, policies and structures of government have to be consistent.
Some special features of the Constitution Fundamental human rights and freedoms
In Chapter 3, the Constitution contains a Bill of Rights with a comprehensive catalogue of entrenched fundamental human rights and freedoms which may never be abolished or diminished, not even by a two-thirds majority in Parliament. They include freedom of speech, religion and assembly and the freedom of the press - rights that for decades were denied to the Namibian people under the South African Apartheid system. The Constitution also prohibits discrimination or inhumane treatment of persons on the grounds of the colour of their skin, their sex, religion, belief, race, ethnic origin and social or economic status.
One of the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution is the right to life and the prohibition of the death penalty, an issue that was discussed extensively and controversially in the Constituent Assembly. Many members were pleading for the retention of capital punishment, but in the end the view of those prevailed, who pleaded against it; in the past, they argued, the repressive apartheid system misused the death penalty as an instrument for eliminating political opponents, and in a new and free Namibia this abuse of power should be counteracted right from the beginning. [...]
This is an excerpt from The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia, by Erika von Wietersheim.
Title: The Constitution of the Republic of Namibia
Compiling: Erika von Wietersheim
Publishers: Konrad Adenauer Foundation and Namibia Scientific Society
Windhoek, Namibia 2015
Softcover, 17 x 24 cm, 144 pages
von Wietersheim, Erika im Namibiana-Buchangebot
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