oa Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa - A Bill of Rights as a normative instrument: South West Africa/Namibia 1975-1988



Looking back over the past three years, one can see, relatively clearly, the contributions and limitations of the Bill of Rights implemented in Namibia. The utility of a Bill is defined in structural-functional terms by the extent to which it provides a transcendent, normative frame of reference accepted by all the significant interest groups in a particular society, as an acceptable set of parameters for individual, group and governmental behaviour. There was - and still is - no realistic possibility in the short term of establishing the Bill of Rights as a normative model for Namibian society at large; the fact of cultural disparity and the hold of tribal bonds and loyalties on a large part of the population preclude this. The political elites which formed the Multi-Party Conference and later the transitional government, have however, despite their origins in a diverse array of cultural traditions and ideologies, regarded themselves as bound by the Bill they jointly forged. Both in the security field and in the course of their disputes about constitutional questions, the Bill has served as a common frame of reference.


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