Dausab: Steering the law reform process

Yvonne Dausab has taken over the reins at the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) as the new Chairperson.

She succeeds Sacky Shangala, who held the position from 2010 to 2014 and is now the Attorney General. Dausab’s appointment comes at a time that Namibians need to experience a new process of law reform that will see them having access to land, housing, sanitation, food security, peace and enlightenment.

“I hope that I will make a contribution towards a contingent of transformation, new way of doing things and a leadership that cares for its people. I want to leave behind a legacy that the President will be proud of, because after all is said and done, he is my appointing authority and I want him to be proud of the choice he made,” she tells Prime Focus Magazine.

She says that although she is part of what has been dubbed ‘the Presidential A-team’, she is not stationed in the office of the President as some might have understood with her introduction to the team. She, however, sees it as a stamp of approval by the President that even though he appointed her in an independent position as Chairperson of the LRDC, she is part of the contingent of people he works with.

“For me, the appointment and the introduction in the manner that it happened is an honour and I believe it was a certification of my competencies and my track record as an academic, a lawyer, an activist and a leader,” she says. Dausab explains that LRDC has an important mandate to examine existing laws for possible reform under the guidelines of whether they promote human rights, enhance socio-economic development and ensure safety and security of Namibia’s people. It is the job of the Commission to undertake research, to monitor the social, cultural and political environment and propose new laws that will contribute towards making the environment conducive.

“We are however, not law makers. The legislative authority is clearly set out in article 44 of the Namibian constitution and it is vested in the National Assembly. Our role is advisory, and therefore to some extent, it is limited. Our relationship with the Minister of Justice is therefore crucial, but we must also interact much more with members of Parliament without losing our objectivity and independence and engage with society regularly so that they are aware of our work,” she says.

Having grown up during the Apartheid era, Dausab has an unending interest in being a human rights activist, as she feels it became innate to her being that she would not tolerate discrimination, unequal treatment and injustice. She took deliberate steps over the years to gain knowledge and understanding in the field of human rights.

Dausab has a teaching experience that spans over a period of seven years and has trained and conductedworkshops in human rights, civil law, municipal law and constitutional law and so on. She was the first female Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at UNAM.

“Since my admission as a Legal Practitioner of the High Court of Namibia in the year 2000, I have been exposed to working in leadership positions since 1999. I started off as a Katutura Advice Coordinator while working for the Legal Assistance Centre. Following my LLM in Human Rights and African Democratisation, I left Namibia and worked as a Regional Project Director for a Southern African Human Rights Organisation based in Zambia,” she says.

She adds that she practiced law with a reputable firm, Engling Stritter and Partners. In 2009 she joined the University of Namibia full-time in various leadership capacities as a lecturer, Head of Department and Acting Director of the Justice Training Centre and was responsible for the Legal Practitioners Qualifying Examinations.

Her position as the Chairperson, which is incidentally at the level of an additional Judge of the High Court of Namibia, has a primary responsibility with the Commission to ensure that existing laws and those envisaged for the future promote equality, human dignity, access to justice, health, prosperity, food security and development.

“As a leader it is important that you inspire people. People want to be listened to, and once you hear their plight, they want results. So make sure you understand your qualities as a leader, harness them, increase your knowledge in your area of expertise, but more importantly, care for those you work with. A good relationship with your peers and your team is important for the success of any company, institution or organisation. In all your dealings, be honest, maintain integrity and inspire trust,” she says.