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HISTORY OF THE SUPREME COURT OF NAMIBIA

Founded on the date of Independence (21st March 1990), the Supreme Court of Namibia is the ultimate repository of the judicial power of State in the Republic of Namibia. Never before have the people of Namibia had a judicial institution of final legal resort with such extensive jurisdiction and powers as those entrusted under the Constitution to the Supreme Court of Namibia. 

Prior to Independence all appeals against judgements and orders of the Supreme Court of South West Africa had to be heard and adjudicated by the then Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa. The latter was perceived by most Namibians as one of the instruments of State used by the South African occupying power to deny their right to freedom and independence and to suppress their desire to have their equal and inalienable rights protected in a democratic society under a sovereign Constitution and a free and independent judiciary.

Library Not only does the Supreme Court of Namibia hear and adjudicate upon appeals emanating from the High Court - including those which involve the interpretation, implementation and upholding of the Constitution and the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed thereunder - it also decides matters referred to it by the Attorney-General under the Constitution and such other matters as may be authorised by Act of Parliament. Its decisions are binding on all other Courts of Namibia and on all persons in Namibia unless they are reversed by the Supreme Court itself, or are contradicted by an Act of Parliament lawfully enacted. In addition, it inherited the inherent powers which the Supreme Court of South West Africa had prior to Independence, including the power to regulate its own procedures and to make Rules of Court for that purpose. Even appeals noted prior to Independence to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of South Africa were deemed to have been noted to the Supreme Court of Namibia and had to be prosecuted in this Court.

The Supreme Court is presided over by the Chief Justice and the Court itself consists of the Chief Justice and such additional Judges as the President of Namibia, acting on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, may determine. (For more about the establishment, constitution and powers of the Supreme Court, read Articles 78, 79 and 138 of the Constitution) The very first duty which the Judicial Service Commission was constitutionally charged with was to make a recommendation to the President with regard to the appointment of the first Chief Justice.

On the date of Independence, the former Judge President of the Supreme Court of South West Africa, His Lordship, Mr Justice H.J. Berker was sworn in by the President as the first Chief Justice of Namibia. He held that office until his passing in July 1992. He was succeeded by a distinguished lawyer who had also served as an Acting Judge of the Supreme Court since shortly after Independence (and who, with the advent of democracy and a new legal order in that country, also became the Chief Justice of the Republic of South Africa), His Lordship, Mr Justice I. Mahomed. With his health failing towards the beginning of 1999, Chief Justice Mahomed retired from office and was succeeded as Chief Justice by His Lordship, Mr Justice G.J.C. Strydom - who had been the Judge President of the High Court of Namibia since Independence. He retired from office in June 2004. Until the appointment of the current Chief Justice, His Lordship, Mr Justice P.S. Shivute on 1 December 2004, he - and later, His Lordship, Mr Justice Mtabanengwe - acted in that office. (For more about the Chief Justices and Judges of the Supreme Court, read the section relating to the Judges)

Since its establishment, the Supreme Court has handed down a number of authoritative judgments on the Constitution, the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed thereunder, the civil rights and obligations of persons and on matters relating to Criminal Law and Procedure. ( For more information about the matters decided, read the judgments of the Supreme Court available in the "Judgements" section of the Home Page )