Namibia Appoints Its First-Ever Female Justices To Its Supreme Court

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In a historic milestone, Namibia has appointed three female judges to its Supreme Court. This is the first time the country has appointed top female legal officials to its highest court since its independence in 1990.

Lady Justices Rita Makarau, Johanna Prinsloo, and Esi Schimming-Chase have all been appointed as acting Supreme Court justices. The one-year appointments were made on the suggestion of Namibia’s Judicial Service Commission by Namibia’s President, H.E Dr. Hage Geingob. The appointments will be in effect from April 1, 2023 until March 31, 2024.

Justice Makarau formerly served as a Supreme Court of Zimbabwe Judge and the High Court of Zimbabwe Judge-President. Opposition parties in Namibia have questioned Makarau’s appointment because of her suspected links to Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party.

Ruth Herunga, head of the Namibia Women Lawyers Association, told Voice of America that the latest development might be viewed as the metaphorical smashing of a glass ceiling.

Herunga also told VOA that, while women have access to political power in many African nations, they are underrepresented at the highest echelons of the court across the continent.

“It is now recognized that the contribution of women judges worldwide and their active participation at all levels of decision making is essential to the achievement of equality and democracy. With these appointments, Namibia also joins the ranks of other countries both on the continent as well as the world who have in recent times already appointed women judges to the highest court,” Herunga said.

The appointments, according to Namibia’s minister of justice, Yvonne Dausab, were a positive development since a more representative demographic mix would increase public confidence in the judicial system.

“We anticipate that over the next few months there are going to be a lot of cases that involve a variety of issues and also a variety of people. You want to make sure that the bench reflects those demographics that people come from so that people have confidence in the system,” Dausab said.

Ndilimeke Auala of the Namibia Institute for Democracy shared the same sentiment, stating the appointments would strike a balance in Namibia’s Supreme Court judgments.

“Society and our processes only flourish with equal representation; Now the female judges must be held to the same standard we hold the male judges, they will be judged by the way they defend the weak in society and speak truth to power. They have the chance to influence policy to improve [sic] an equal society,” Auala said