11 December 2012

Namibia: Cornered Lawyer Fights Back

Windhoek — Axed magistrate Leah Shaanika is fighting her dismissal as Labour Court magistrate with an appeal in the Windhoek High Court.

Shaanika, who was dismissed more than four years ago lodged an urgent appeal in the Labour Court in the Windhoek High Court to be granted a postponement in order for her to be provided with the full transcript of her disciplinary hearing and subsequent appeals by the then Minister of Justice, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana.

Iivula-Ithana challenged the decision of the Magistrate's Commission to dismiss Shaanika right through to the Supreme Court, but lost in the end and was forced to do the commission's bidding.

Shaanika now took the mantle onto herself and appealed the commission's decision in the Labour Court in the High Court. She argued on Friday that the record given to her was not complete and therefore she needed condonation for the late filing of her heads of argument and a postponement in order for her to receive the complete record from the commission.

She told acting Judge Nicolaas Ndou from Zimbabwe that her right to a fair trial and right to appeal were violated. She stressed that she had not received any feedback from the Registrar on the reconstruction of the record.

She further had an issue on who was to reconstruct the record, calling it "a thorny issue". Norman Tjombe, who appeared for the commission agreed that the record is not complete and assured acting Judge Ndou that he would do everything in his power to get the record reconstructed should it be necessary.

Judge Ndou ordered that a hearing date to fall within the first term of 2013 be allocated by the Registrar and that the late filing by Shaanika be condoned. He further granted Shaanika leave to file her heads of argument within fifteen days after her receipt of the full record.

This matter stems from a decision by the Magistrate's Commission to dismiss Shaanika from her position as magistrate in the Labour Court after she was found guilty on six charges of misconduct after a disciplinary hearing, which she did not attend, in late October 2007.

Shaanika argued that the reason she did not attend the hearing was because she was confined to the side of her late father's sick bed. The Minister of Justice failed to implement the commission's recommendation for a year and after various follow-up requests, the commission launched a case against the Minister and Shaanika in the High Court in early 2009.

The commission succeeded in securing a High Court order to remove Shaanika, but an appeal lodged by the Minister of Justice in the Supreme Court paved the way for Shaanika to remain in her position until the Supreme Court had made itself heard in the matter. This happened in June this year and Shaanika has now taken it upon herself to fight the matter further. Friday's decision by acting Judge Ndou was a minor victory for the firebrand magistrate who was removed from office for apparently running a 'cuca shop' at the court.

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