Access to Justice: A Call for Reform and Collaboration

Hilalius Ndeimana

Access to justice is a fundamental right that ensures equal protection and fair treatment for all individuals within a legal system.

In Namibia, the issue of access to justice is a pressing concern.

The high cost of litigation, limited availability of legal representation, and gaps in the provision of legal aid pose barriers for Namibians seeking justice.

This creates a significant barrier for especially individuals from less privileged backgrounds.

There is an urgent need to reform existing mechanisms to ensure equal access to justice for all.

Litigation, particularly in civil suits, can be a major financial burden.

To pursue a civil suit successfully, individuals are often required to hire a private lawyer.

The prescribed fees set by the courts may be recovered by the successful party, further adding to the financial burden.


Namibia has put in place a number of legal aid mechanisms.

The Legal Aid Act allows for providing legal aid to individuals who meet certain income criteria or have no income at all.

This assistance is crucial in ensuring that individuals have access to legal representation.

The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) is one organisation that plays a vital role in providing free legal assistance in constitutional cases and cases of public interest.

The LAC relies on donations and sponsors to support its work.

In addition, the University of Namibia has a Legal Aid Clinic that offers free legal services thanks to the contributions of private legal practitioners who participate as part of their social responsibility.

While these initiatives are commendable, they are often thinly stretched because of limited resources and high demand.

The need for legal aid outweighs the current capacity, leaving many individuals without the necessary support to navigate the legal system effectively.


In criminal cases, the state is represented by a public prosecutor, whose fees are covered by the government.

However, accused individuals have the right to be defended by a legal practitioner of their choice.

Unfortunately, this option is often not feasible for those who cannot afford legal representation.

This disparity highlights the need for a more inclusive system that ensures equal access to legal representation.

The Constitution enshrines the right to access justice and promotes the welfare of all people.

Article 95(h) specifically calls for a legal system that seeks to promote justice on the basis of equal opportunity, including providing free legal aid in defined cases. The binding effect of these constitutional provisions has been affirmed by the Supreme Court of Namibia, which ruled that the government has a constitutional obligation to provide services that protect and enforce individuals’ fundamental rights.


To address the challenges and gaps in access to justice in Namibia, a comprehensive and collaborative approach is needed. Key areas that require attention and reform, include:

  • •Amendment of the Legal Aid Act (1990): The act needs to be amended. This includes revisiting the income criteria for eligibility, expanding the scope of cases covered and securing sufficient funding to meet the growing demand for legal aid services.
  • • Public-Private Partnerships: Collaboration between the government, legal practitioners, and civil society organisations is essential to bridge the gap in legal representation.

Public-private partnerships can help increase the availability of pro bono legal services and ensure that individuals have access to quality representation regardless of their financial means.

  • • Awareness and education: Raising awareness about legal rights and available resources is crucial in empowering individuals to seek justice.

Education programmes should be implemented to inform the public about their legal rights, the process of accessing legal aid, and the importance of legal representation.

  • • Basic income as a solution: Exploring alternative approaches, such as implementing a basic income grant (BIG) for all Namibians may help provide a solution.

By ensuring a minimum level of income for all individuals, financial barriers to legal representation can be mitigated, allowing for a more equitable justice system.

  • • Volunteer programmes: Engaging final year law students in public legal consultation through volunteer programmes could prove a valuable resource for individuals seeking legal guidance.

By collaborating with legal practitioners, these students can provide preliminary advice and support under the supervision of experienced professionals.

A comprehensive and collaborative approach that embraces amending legislation, fosters public-private partnerships, raises awareness, and explores innovative solutions is needed.

Through working together, Namibia can ensure that every individual has equal access to justice and the protection of their legal rights.

  • * Hilalius Ndeimana is a law student and one of the founders of the Comrades Association Namibia, a youth-led organisation

Stay informed with The Namibian – your source for credible journalism. Get in-depth reporting and opinions for only N$85 a month. Invest in journalism, invest in democracy –
Subscribe Now!

Latest News