BY FREDERICO LINKS – In late November 2018 the minister of justice, Sacky Shanghala, tabled a bill in the National Assembly to have scores of colonial era laws still on Namibian statute books repealed.
The Repeal of Obsolete Laws bill would scrap 144 laws and ordinances, from as far back as 1915 and up to the end of the 1980s, in one go.
Many of the laws set for repeal are from the apartheid era, from 1948 through to 1989, and speak to the era’s divide-and-rule programme.
However, what is notably missing from the mass repeal exercise – which will only be handled in 2019, as by the time of writing parliament had already gone into recess for the end of year holiday season – is the Protection of Information Act (no. 84) of 1982.
This apartheid-era law was recently used by the Namibia Central Intelligence Service (NCIS) to try and muzzle the weekly The Patriot newspaper from publishing stories related to alleged mismanagement and corruption in the intelligence service.
That this law, which stands as a threat to freedom of expression and media freedom, is allowed to remain on the statute books is highly concerning and communicates a lack of commitment to transparency and accountability in the state sector and undermines political pronouncements about increasing openness.
The ACTION Coalition, along with others, has called for the scrapping of this law in 2018, following the incident involving The Patriot.
It is high time that the body of Namibian laws is cleansed of this apartheid law and replaced by an access to information law.