Andrew Kathindi

Chief Justice Peter Shivute, ministers, members of the judiciary and legal fraternity are currently in self-isolation after attending the book launch of Deputy Chief Justice Petrus Damaseb, where one of the event organizers tested positive for COVID-19.

The event was held last week Wednesday and attended by 100 guests, including six judges, four ministers and lawyers including Sisa Namandje.

Chairperson of Namibia Lawyers Association (NLA), which organized the book launch, Taswald July, confirmed that one of the Governance Counsel (GC) members tested positive and is in quarantine.

“The relevant protocols have been followed. The venue has been informed and the COVID response team has been provided with the list of attendees who were present,” July said.

“To avoid panic the NLA has been informed to be guided by distance and the duration that the positive patient was in the presence of guest.”

Deputy Director of Public Relations in the Office of the Judiciary, Ockert Jansen confirmed to Windhoek Observer that Chief Justice, Peter Shivute was currently in self-isolation but requested the newspaper to send questions, which were not responded to by the time of posting this edition.

The Minister of Justice Yvonne Dausab told the Windhoek Observer this development will impact court cases as judges and lawyers will not be able to attend to their clients and cases.

“I can tell you this is worrisome because this will contribute to backlog at the courts as matters will have to be postponed. It will also affect availability of lawyers to assist clients and therefore, limits access to legal services.”

She further noted that the situation can also be an opportunity for others who are not in quarantine or self-isolation to assist their colleagues with work.

“The closure of courts [is] in the interest of the public and as a measure of abundance of caution does affect aspects of the administration of justice but we would rather take measures to reduce the further spread of the virus and have longer court rolls in these very difficult times we find ourselves.”

She added, “We will also have to increase doing work from home and digital platforms like we had previously demonstrated that court proceedings will have to be done via digital platforms where it is urgent and cannot be otherwise.”

This comes as Lawyer Sisa Namandje, who also attended the book launch, is set to hear his fate next week on Friday 14 August at the High Court, with regards to whether he will have to open up his books to the Namibia Law Society for review regarding the alleged use of his law firm to launder money in the Fishrot saga.

“There’s a difference between being at an event and being in contact with someone. First of all who told you I was there? Go back to whoever sent you. You just want to make news out of me.” said Namandje when contacted for comment on this matter.