NMT expresses itself on proposed Civil Action Bill

2018-08-24

The Namibia Media Trust, having perused the Discussion Paper of the Law Reform and Development Commission (1) and the draft standing in Civil Action Bill, wishes to state the following:

From the outset the NMT wishes to state that a statute expanding standing (local standi) in a constitutional democracy such as Namibia, should be welcomed with open arms, because it gives effect to our Constitutional principle that the Namibia State is “founded on the principles of democracy, the rule of law and justice for all”. (2)

As stated in the Discussion Paper of the Law Reform and Development Commission, we are currently limited in civil litigation by the common law principle on standing that a litigant must show a “direct and substantial interest” in the subject matter and the outcome of a case, before the courts can consider a case and order redress. The Supreme Court has expanding the definition of standing (3) but it is important that specific legislation be adopted to ensure certainty in law, and that it is not only up to the courts to exercise discretion on this very important issue.

The Bill in its current form expands standing, and it allows individuals, groups and organisations which might otherwise not have standing under the common law, to bring legal action in a representative capacity where the matter is in the public interest and in constitutional challenges. The Bill also brings in the concept of “aggrieved person(s)” which is a welcome departure from the narrowly defined common law principle of standing. The Bill also adds flesh to the interpretation of Article 18 of the Constitution dealing with Administrative Justice.

The Bill is written in plain language, which makes it more accessible to individuals, groups and organisations to understand the legal concept and exercise their rights accordingly.

The Namibian Media Trust therefore supports the Bill in its present form and considers it a positive development for Namibia in general and civil society in particular, and it is also in line with developments in other democracies, such as South Africa, India and Canada.

(1) LRDC 27 March 2014 – Locus Standi Discussion Paper
(2) Article 1(1) of the Namibian Constitution
(3) Namundjebo vs Commanding Officer, Windhoek Prison 1999 NR 271 (SC)