If everyone knew it and abided by it, we would definitely be better off, probably more advanced than we are, and considerably more equal. Trouble is, most people know of it, but they donít know its content, and would be hard-pressed to answer if faced with a Q and A about our supreme law. If it is not already the case, our Constitution should be taught in the schools, most especially our Bill of Rights, and its values instilled in early life so as to ensure it is written in Namibian hearts and minds.
IT is not a completely flawless document, but it overall speaks for all the right things, and is something that could and should inspire national loyalty, and perhaps the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology should keep it in focus when it campaigns for nationhood and national pride. This could be a true catalyst for unity, where few other things would be able to join people together.
Yet it is clear many either conveniently ignore or turn their backs on the Constitution. I am sometimes astounded at how little people know about it, and those who havenít already, should make a point of getting a copy and actually reading it, especially public servants, because that would help to keep the Constitution central in all the things we do.
There are so many aspects of it that we can be proud of. We should use it too, to guide us on a number of levels, especially at a time like the present, when there is significant moral decay in the fabric of our society.
Our inalienable Bill of Rights is, in my view, the most precious aspect. For this protects what we as a country fought for, namely, human rights, justice and equality. Any campaign for nationhood and national pride that does not have the Constitution central to its goal, is surely doomed to failure. Among others, the Bill of Rights shows us, in case we didnít know, how to respect others. It is clear many Namibians have not internalised the spirit of this section. I will briefly run through some of the provisions and show that we are not always in compliance:
One of our great Constitutional achievements was the right to life and abolition of the death penalty. While many complain about rising crime and demand its return, they need to accept that this cannot be. But more importantly, criminals themselves, who know they will never be put to death in Namibia, no matter how heinous their crime, should realise that taking the life of another should be regarded in an even more serious light given our constitutional leniency.
Wikipedia notes that of 54 African states that are UN members (Namibia is one of) 17 that have abolished death penalty; 25 countries permit its use but havenít implemented it for over 10 years; while 12 African countries maintain capital punishment in both law and practice. Our progressive stance on outlawing the death penalty should be a source of national pride. Neither the state nor any individual should kill another in Namibia.
The right to participate in peaceful political activity is another area not always respected or adhered to, especially when certain parties deny the right to opposition. Namibians have the right to a fair trial, but it is doubtful, for example, whether this has been the case in the socalled Caprivi treason trial, which has taken years; and justice should be speedy to have full effect. There are unacceptably long-outstanding court judgements spanning many years, and although the Bill of Rights does not mention this, justice delayed can be justice denied. Widespread abuse shows that many Namibians also donít observe the rights of children.
These are just some examples from our Bill of Rights which, if we took to heart, would make us better people.
We talk about the ruling party and about Government, but the Constitution supersedes both. Political parties may come and go but our Bill of Rights will always be with us, and it can be described as Ďjust a piece of paperí unless all Namibians take it to heart and use it to guide both their behaviour and their actions.