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TITLE:  NAMIBIA HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                            NAMIBIA


Namibia is a multiparty, multiracial democracy, headed by 
President Sam Nujoma, leader of the South West Africa People's 
Organization (SWAPO), which won Namibia's first free elections 
in November 1989 and the National Assembly and presidential 
elections in December 1994.  President Nujoma and the SWAPO 
party received just over 70 percent of the vote in the December 
1994 presidential and National Assembly elections, which were 
generally regarded as free and fair.

The Namibian police, supervised by the Ministry of Home 
Affairs, and the Namibian Defense Force (NDF), supervised by 
the Ministry of Defense, share responsibilities for internal 
security.  NDF soldiers reportedly killed two civilians along 
the country's border with Angola, and police members were 
accused of human rights abuses against civilians, including 
beatings of detainees.  The authorities punished some police 
officers or charged them in court for committing such abuses.

Namibia's modern market sector produces most of its wealth 
while a traditional subsistence agricultural sector (mainly in 
the north) supports most of its labor force.  Mining, ranching, 
and fishing, the mainstays of the market sector, are still 
largely controlled by white Namibians and foreign interests.  
However, government policy is to "Namibianize" the increasingly 
important fishing sector, so that more indigenous entrepreneurs 
are able to participate.  In September the Government 
introduced legislation to redistribute underutilized, privately 
owned farmland, with owners to be compensated at fair market 
value.

Namibians enjoy a wide range of constitutionally provided 
civil, political, and economic liberties.  Nevertheless, there 
continued to be credible reports that police tortured or 
otherwise abused criminal suspects.  SWAPO continued to delay 
providing a complete accounting for missing detainees held 
during the preindependence period.  The Government refused 
initially in August to permit former counterinsurgency fighters 
to return to Namibia, but it abided by a subsequent High Court 
ruling that Namibian citizens had the constitutional right to 
return to their homeland.  Inherited problems of racial 
discrimination and disparities--especially in education, 
health, employment, and working conditions--continued in 1994, 
despite sustained efforts by the Government to reduce them.

Although the Constitution prohibits discrimination based on 
race and gender, women continued in practice to experience 
serious legal and cultural discrimination.  Women also 
experienced widespread societal violence.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

There were no reports of politically motivated or other 
extrajudicial killings during 1994.  However, there were 
credible reports that NDF soldiers killed two unarmed civilians 
in late 1994 along the river boundary between northern Namibia 
and southeastern Angola.  Reportedly, NDF members shot the two 
while they were attempting to evade capture, as officially 
authorized by their commanders.  The NDF actions may have been 
in response to an October campaign speech.  At year's end, the 
Government had not taken any disciplinary action against the 
soldiers responsible for the shootings.

While several cases of preindependence political killings 
remained unsolved, in June, following lengthy inquest 
proceedings, the High Court determined that SWAPO activist 
Anton Lubowski, assassinated in 1989, had in all likelihood 
been killed by Irish citizen Donald Acheson at the behest of 
the former South African Civil Cooperation Bureau (CCB).  The 
Government expressed its intention to put Acheson and his 
accomplices on trial for the murder, but extradition 
proceedings had not been initiated by year's end.  The Court 
also determined that high-ranking officials of the 
preindependence police and military forces, accused in 1993 by 
a local newspaper of planning Lubowksi's killing, had not been 
involved in the act.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances in 1994.  Nevertheless, 
the public and political parties again focused on the 
unexplained disappearances of persons detained by SWAPO prior 
to independence.  The number of SWAPO detainees still 
unaccounted for range between 154 and 256.  In April senior 
SWAPO officials promised a complete accounting before the end 
of the year of everyone who had died or disappeared during the 
liberation struggle, but it had not done so by year's end.  
This issue will likely remain controversial until the 
Government conducts and releases the results of a full 
investigation.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution states that "no persons shall be subject to 
torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or 
punishment."  There were credible allegations, however, that 
members of the police beat or otherwise abused civilians, 
primarily during arrest and initial interrogation.  For 
example, in one case in 1994, an NDF soldier sued the 
Government for his unlawful arrest by four police officers in 
October 1993.  He was reportedly kicked and punched repeatedly 
by police at the Katutura police station before being released 
without charge.  His case was pending trial at year's end.  The 
authorities suspended at least four police officers from the 
police force for beating prisoners in the Oshakati police 
cells.  At year's end their cases had not yet been prosecuted 
in court.

In connection with past offenses, in July the Windhoek 
magistrate's court ruled in favor of a person who charged that 
a joint police/NDF patrol had falsely arrested, beaten, 
threatened, and interrogated him in early 1993, based on his 
former status as a SWAPO detainee.  At year's end, he was 
pursuing in the High Court a civil damages suit against the 
police and NDF members involved in the incident.  Court 
proceedings also continued against three NDF members who 
carried out the June 1993 unprovoked assault and beating of a 
farming couple near the town of Outjo.  In the meantime, the 
three accused were initially dishonorably discharged from the 
military but were subsequently reinstated.

Prison conditions are harsh but do not generally threaten the 
life or health of prisoners.  During the year, the National 
Society for Human Rights charged that police and prison cells 
were overcrowded and that food was inadequate, particularly in 
Windhoek and Oshakati.  Despite admitting its resource 
constraints in addressing this problem, the Government did take 
an important step in ending the practice of holding youthful 
offenders in the same cells as adult criminals.  It also 
stepped up the training of police and prison officials and 
continued to grant legal counsel, local nongovernmental 
organizations (NGO's), and diplomatic officials regular access 
to prisoners.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

The Constitution forbids arbitrary arrest or detention, and the 
Government has generally respected these provisions in 
practice.  According to the Constitution, persons who are 
arrested must be informed of the reason for their arrest, and 
they must be brought before a magistrate within 48 hours of 
their detention.  A trial must take place within "a reasonable 
time," or the accused must be released.  The accused are 
entitled to defense by a legal counsel of their choice; the 
State provides counsel for the indigent.

Some traditional leaders reportedly continued to detain and 
imprison persons accused of minor offenses without recourse to 
police or judicial review.  The Government repeatedly condemned 
these actions and called upon the public to report such 
practices to the authorities.  It also began training 
traditional leaders on the legal limits to their powers.

As far as known, the Government held no political detainees or 
prisoners at year's end.  The Government does not use exile for 
political purposes, but it temporarily blocked the return of 
former members of the preindependence counterinsurgency group, 
"Koevoet," who were in self-exile in South Africa (see Section 
2.d.).

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitutional right to a fair trial, with a presumption of 
innocence until proven guilty, is generally afforded by an 
independent judiciary.  However, problems in the traditional 
system and the long delays in hearing some cases in the regular 
courts limit this right in practice.  The formal system 
consists of three levels:  magistrate's court, the High Court, 
and the Supreme Court.  The latter also serves as the court of 
appeals and as a constitutional review court.

Most rural Namibians first encounter the legal system through 
the traditional courts which deal with minor criminal offenses, 
such as petty theft and infractions of local customs, among 
members of the same ethnic group.  A special commission, 
created to make recommendations on the prospective jurisdiction 
of traditional courts, concluded in 1993 that traditional 
cultural practices and structures should be maintained, 
provided they were consistent with constitutional protections 
and existing laws.  The Government had not yet presented its 
draft enabling legislation to Parliament at year's end.

The lack of qualified magistrates and other court officials has 
resulted in a serious backlog of criminal cases.  There is also 
a shortage of attorneys; there were only 100 lawyers engaged in 
private practice in Namibia in 1994.  As a result, as of August 
31, the Government had a backlog of over 2,000 cases, which in 
some instances translated into a 6-month delay between arrest 
and trial.  To address these problems, the Government, together 
with the University of Namibia, provided in-service legal 
training to magistrates and other court officials at the 
University's Training Center.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

The Constitution grants all citizens the right to privacy and 
requires arresting officers to secure a judicial warrant for 
certain listed offenses before conducting a search.  These 
rights were respected in practice.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

The Constitution provides for these freedoms, including 
academic freedom, and the Government respected them in practice.

The government-owned Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) 
operates most radio and television services.  Although the NBC 
routinely gave prominent coverage to the activities of 
government officials, it also provided significant coverage to 
the opposition and viewpoints critical of the Government.  
There are two private radio stations.  A variety of privately 
owned newspapers operate without government restriction and no 
apparent self-censorship.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly and 
association.  Police or municipal permits are required for 
large, publicized public gatherings but are granted routinely.  
During 1994 various organizations, including political parties 
and religious groups, held large meetings and public gatherings 
without interference.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is no state religion, and the Government does not 
restrict the exercise of religious freedom.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

The Constitution provides citizens the rights to travel freely, 
both domestically and abroad, to reside and settle in any part 
of the country, and to repatriate.  In practice, the Government 
respected these freedoms.  However, in one controversial 
incident in early August, the Government denied entry to a 
group of Namibian former counterinsurgency fighters and 
dependents, who attempted to return home from South Africa, 
because of their preindependence military activities as members 
of the notorious Koevoet counterinsurgency unit, organized by 
the South African army, which many believe committed egregious 
human rights abuses.  Two weeks later, the High Court ruled 
that the Government had acted illegally and unconstitutionally 
in refusing them the right to return to Namibia.  The 
Government honored the Court's decision and allowed the group, 
plus other former counterinsurgency members who could document 
their Namibian citizenship, to return home.

Local NGO's and opposition political parties continued to 
criticize the Government for its alleged lack of a consistent 
refugee or asylum policy.  At midyear, the Government acceded 
to several U.N. conventions on refugees.  Although it expressed 
initial reservations over Article 26 of the 1951 U.N. 
Convention (concerning freedom of movement and residence), the 
Cabinet subsequently ruled that skilled, recognized refugees 
would be allowed to work or study on a case-by-case basis, and 
this policy was in effect as the year ended.  It was unclear, 
however, whether this policy would have any impact on the 
numbers of refugees allowed outside the camps.  Some 90 percent 
of the approximately 1,500 recognized refugees in Namibia are 
Angolans.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised this constitutional right for the second 
time in free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections 
in 1994.  The Constitution established a bicameral Parliament 
and provides for general elections every 5 years and regional 
elections every 6 years.  Incumbent President Nujoma was 
reelected to a second 5-year term of office during the 
country's first postindependence elections for the National 
Assembly and the President in December 1994.  The ruling SWAPO 
party won 53 of the 72 elected National Assembly seats, the 
Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA, the major opposition party) 
secured 15 seats, and the three smaller parties obtained a 
total of 4 seats.

Women are increasingly involved in Namibia's political process 
but are seriously underrepresented.  During 1994 women held 
three positions at the Cabinet or subcabinet level and seven 
seats in the two houses of Parliament.  An additional three 
women were elected to the National Assembly as a result of the 
December elections.  Historic economic and educational 
disadvantages have served to limit the participation of the 
indigenous San ethnic group in politics.  For example, the only 
San member of the current National Assembly has been unable to 
participate effectively because he cannot read or write in 
English and could not obtain a reliable San-English interpreter.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Local organizations, such as the National Society for Human 
Rights and the Legal Assistance Centre, operated freely, 
criticizing the Government's handling of the SWAPO detainee 
issue, the treatment of refugees, misconduct by members of the 
police, and other matters.

International human rights organizations traveled to Namibia 
and discussed human rights issues with governmental and 
nongovernmental representatives.  The Government also invited 
international observers to witness its December elections.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race, creed, 
gender, or religion, and specifically prohibits "the practice 
and ideology of apartheid."

     Women

Despite constitutional protections, women faced persistent 
discrimination in both formal and customary law and, most 
importantly, in deep-rooted societal practices by all ethnic 
groups.  A number of unfair preindependence statutes continued 
to discriminate against women in such areas as property, 
business, and employment.  For example, a woman may not open a 
bank account without the approval of her husband or other close 
male relative.  Also, under existing community property laws, 
married women of all groups are defined as legal minors and 
need the written consent of their husbands before they may 
legally acquire or purchase property.  Traditional practices 
also permit family members to confiscate the property of 
deceased men from their widows and children, particularly in 
northern Namibia.

The Government, prodded by women's groups, began to address 
these inequalities, and in October the Government announced its 
intention to introduce in Parliament in early 1995 a "married 
persons equality bill" aimed at removing provisions of law that 
discriminate against married women, but not single women.

Violence against women remained widespread, most commonly in 
the form of beatings and rape.  Because of traditional 
attitudes regarding the subordination of women, many incidents 
of abuse are never reported to the authorities.  However, in 
those few grave abuse cases where legal action has been 
initiated, the courts often sentenced male offenders, including 
spouses, to long terms of imprisonment.  The courts sentenced 
convicted rapists to prison terms averaging 6 to 9 years.  
During the year, the Namibian police opened new "women and 
child abuse centres" in the towns of Oshakati and Keetmanshoop, 
with specially trained female officers to assist victims of 
sexual assaults.  The first facility of this kind was opened in 
Windhoek in mid-1993.

     Children

Children's rights, including those of protection from economic 
exploitation and from work that is hazardous or harmful to 
their health, education, mental, spiritual, moral, or social 
development, are enumerated in the Constitution.  In practice, 
the Government has been able to commit only limited resources 
to the protection of children's welfare.  Child abuse is a 
serious problem.  The authorities vigorously prosecuted cases 
involving crimes against children, particularly rape and 
incest, and encouraged discussion and the issuance of printed 
materials in the schools.  Women and child abuse centers (see 
above) also worked to reduce the trauma suffered by abused 
children and provided training to police officials on handling 
this problem.

     Indigenous People

The San people, Namibia's earliest known inhabitants, 
historically have been exploited by other ethnic groups.  The 
Government has taken a number of measures to end this societal 
discrimination against the San, including seeking their advice 
about proposed legislation on communally held lands and 
increasing their access to primary education.  By law, all 
indigenous groups in Namibia are able to participate equally in 
decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and 
allocations of natural resources.  Nevertheless, the San and 
many other indigenous Namibians have been unable to exercise 
fully these rights as a result of historically minimal access 
to education and economic opportunities under colonial rule, 
coupled with their relative isolation in remote areas of the 
country.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The Constitution prohibits discrimination based on race and 
other factors and specifically prohibits "the practice and 
ideology of apartheid."  Nevertheless, as a result of more than 
70 years of South African administration, societal, racial, and 
ethnic discrimination persists, and some apartheid-based 
statutes have not been repealed or replaced by the Parliament.  
Many nonwhites continued to complain that the Government was 
not moving quickly enough to lessen the continuing and serious 
inequalities in education, health, housing, employment, and 
access to land.

Also, some opposition parties, including members of the Herero 
and Nama ethnic groups, claimed that the SWAPO-led Government 
provided more development assistance to the numerically 
dominant Ovambo ethnic group of far northern Namibia than to 
other groups or regions of the country.  The application by the 
"Baster" community for the Government to return its traditional 
land in the Rehoboth area was still being considered by the 
courts as the year ended.

     People with Disabilities

There were no reports of official discrimination on the basis 
of disability, and the Government continued its efforts to 
provide the disabled with appropriate treatment and education.  
The Government does not legally require special access to 
public buildings for the disabled.  However, some municipal 
governments have installed ramps and special curbing at street 
crossings for the disabled.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

The Constitution provides for freedom of association, including 
the right to form and join trade unions.  The 1992 Labor Act 
extended that right to public servants, farm workers, and 
domestic employees.  Trade unions have no difficulty 
registering, and there are no government restrictions on who 
serves as a union official.  No union has been dissolved by 
government action.

Unions are independent of government and may form federations 
and confederations.  The two principal trade union umbrella 
organizations are the National Union of Namibian Workers 
(NUNW), and the Namibia People's Social Movement (NPSM).  
Roughly half of the wage sector is organized to some degree, 
although less than 20 percent of full-time wage earners are 
organized.

Except for those providing essential services (e.g., jobs 
related to public health and safety), workers enjoy the right 
to strike once conciliation procedures have been exhausted.  
Under the Labor Act, strike action may be used only in disputes 
involving worker interests, such as pay raises.  Disputes over 
worker rights, including dismissals, must be referred to a 
labor court (which is convened on an ad hoc basis in the 
existing magisterial districts) for arbitration.  The Labor Act 
protects legally striking workers from unfair dismissal.

Trade unions are free to exchange visits with foreign trade 
unions and to affiliate with international trade union 
organizations.  The unions have exercised this freedom without 
interference.  The American Federation of Labor-Congress of 
Industrial Organization, through its African-American Labor 
Center representative based in South Africa, provided technical 
assistance to the NUNW during regular visits to Namibia in 1994.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The 1992 Labor Act provides employees the right to bargain 
individually or collectively.  Collective bargaining is not 
widely practiced outside the mining and construction 
industries; wages are usually set by employers.  As unions 
become more active, however, informal collective bargaining is 
becoming more common.

The Labor Act provides a process for employer recognition of 
trade unions and protection for members and organizers.  The 
law also empowers a labor court to remedy unfair labor 
practices and explicitly forbids unfair dismissals, which may 
also be appealed to the labor court.

At present, the Labor Act also applies in the only existing 
export processing zone (EPZ), located at the town of Arandis.  
News reports that the Ministry of Trade and Industry might 
exempt an EPZ in Walvis Bay from the provisions of the Labor 
Act prompted the NUNW to come out strongly in opposition to any 
area of Namibia being declared "union free."  Draft EPZ 
legislation was presented to the Parliament in late 1994 but 
had not been debated or enacted as the year ended.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced labor is prohibited by law.  Although there were no 
formal complaints filed with the Ministry of Labor in 1994, 
there were continuing reports that farm workers sometimes 
receive inadequate compensation for their labor and are subject 
to strict control by farm owners.  Ministry of Labor inspectors 
sometimes encountered problems in gaining access to Namibia's 
expansive, privately owned commercial farms in order to 
document possible Labor Code violations.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Under the 1992 Labor Act, the minimum age for employment is 14 
years, with higher age requirements for certain sectors such as 
mining and construction and night work.  Ministry of Labor 
inspectors generally enforce minimum age regulations, but 
children below the age of 14 often work on family and 
commercial farms and in the informal sector.  Boys in the rural 
areas traditionally start herding livestock at age 7.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

There is no statutory minimum wage law.  In Windhoek's nonwhite 
townships, many workers and their families have difficulty 
maintaining a minimally decent standard of living.  White 
Namibians earn significantly more on average than their black 
compatriots, in large part because whites own most of the 
country's productive resources and had preferential access to 
education that enabled them to take advantage of the skilled 
labor shortage.

After independence, the standard legal workweek was reduced 
from 46 to 45 hours, and includes at least one 24-hour rest 
period per week.  An employer may require no more than 10 hours 
per week of overtime.  The law mandates 24 consecutive days of 
annual leave, at least 30 workdays of sick leave per year, and 
3 months of unpaid maternity leave.  In practice, however, 
these provisions are not yet rigorously observed or enforced by 
the Ministry of Labor.

Government-mandated occupational health and safety standards 
are set by law.  The Labor Act empowers the President to 
enforce them through inspections and criminal penalties.  The 
Government carried out a national survey of health and safety 
standards but had not released any report or upgraded standards 
by year's end.  The law requires employers to ensure the 
health, safety, and welfare of their employees and provides for 
their right to remove themselves from dangerous work 
situations.



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[end of document]

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