Society of Advocates of South West Africa adopted its first
constitution on 3 August 1993. In 1986 the Society changed
its name from Society of Advocates of South West Africa
to the Society of Advocates of Namibia 4 years before
Namibia became independent. In terms of this Constitution
the Bar Council is the Society's executive body which consists
of the President, Vice President, Secretary General, Treasurer
and one additional member, all of whom are elected by members
of the Society at its Annual General Meeting. The Bar Council
meets from time to time.
Namibian Bar, however, existed for much longer, although
it did not have a constitution and all members of the Bar
attended all meetings which were called by the President
thereof, whenever required.
26 January 1920 three practicing advocates constituted a
body called the Bar Council of South West Africa. The only
documentation that exists of the earlier activities of this
Bar Council are the Minutes of Bar Council meetings. It
appears from these Minutes, which were handwritten, that
one of the members of the Bar chaired the Bar Council meetings.
Later an honorary secretary was elected who kept the Minutes.
The first member who chaired Bar Council meetings was Adv.
L.O.P. Pymont and when the Bar Council was founded there
were two additional members namely L. Ward and I Goldblatt.
Goldblatt became the first elected President of the Bar
Council on 14 July 1942 and J.P. Niehaus the honorary secretary.
Bar Council initially concerned itself with matters such
as the non-payment of fees by attorneys and disciplinary
proceedings against a member who apparently appeared without
being briefed. The membership of the Bar Council grew and
also included the attorney-general and his staff. According
to the Minutes of the Bar Council there were some years
during which no Bar Council meeting was held.
seems that one of the matters that received much attention
was the appointment of South Africans on the High Court
bench, which bench consisted during the earlier years of
only one judge. The Bar Council often opposed the appointment
of a judge and even solicited the support of the Law Society
or Side-bar, as it was called, and on occasion even went
to Pretoria to confront the South African Minister of Justice.
All these efforts were to no avail and retired civil servants
with minimal practical judicial experience were continuously
appointed to the South West African bench. A member of the
Bar Council during 1921, F. (Toon) van den Heever, was the
honourary secretary but disappeared. Later he was appointed
to the Bench as a legal advisor of the South African Government.
The Bar and Side-bar objected, but again to no avail. Toon
van den Heever lateron became a well known Appeal Court
Judge in Bloemfontein. During 1947 the Bar Council in conjunction
with the Side-bar was again unsuccessful in its opposition
to the appointment of a retired legal advisor from South
Africa, Judge Brebner. The Bar Council resolved on 22 March
1947 that its members shall not accept any Pro-Deo defences
and would not sit as assessors in criminal cases. This situation
continued for more than 4 years until the Bar Council, at
the request of the same judge Brebner, decided to end it
boycot. These unsuccessful attempts to have persons from
the local Bar appointed on the local Bench in stead of South
Africans continued and even on 8 October 1979 two members
of the Bar, C.J. Mouton SC and L.C. Muller, met in Pretoria
with the Minister of Justice in this regard. Again it did
not help. The Bar Council issued a press statement in this
regard. Only after the High Court of South West Africa was
established through legislation and was no longer a division
of South Africa, local members of the Bar were appointed
as judges. The first of these appointments was Adv. G.J.C.
Strydom S.C., who is presently the Chief Justice of Namibia.
Until 21 March 1990 when Namibia became independent, all
appeals from the High Court were heard by the Appeal Court
in Bloemfontein. There were also very competent lawyers
appointed to the local bench. Both judges Buddy Muller and
Gus Hoexter became Appeal Court Judges.
Bar Council had to cope with an unusual problem during the
second world war. Nearly half of its members joined the
allied forces and a decision was passed that the remaining
members would appear on behalf of those members who joined
the war for half of their fees in unopposed matters. The
other half was paid to the particular member who joined
the war effort.
Bar Council had never any prohibition against the joining
of any member on racial grounds. On the contrary, the Society
took a strong position during the liberation struggle of
Namibia against what it considered as injustice committed
by members of the South African Defence Force and the Police,
in particular under so-called anti-terrorism legislation.
The Society even persuaded the Administrator-General to
appoint a Commission of Enquiry into atrocities committed
by these forces, the van Dyk Commission. As member of the
Society, Coetzee was appointed on that commission and O'Linn
and Muller testified before it on behalf of the Society.
The Society of Advocates of England congratulated the Society
on the strong stance that it took in respect of the protection
of human rights. The attitude of this Society and its opposition
to the infringement of the Rule of Law unjustifiably labelled
it as a liberal body. During the 1989 elections in Namibia
in terms of Resolution 435 of the United Nations, the Commission
for the Prevention of Intimidation and Election malpractices
was appointed with the President of the Society, Adv. Bryan
O'Linn SC, as chairman. Muller SC was also appointed a member
of that Commission that heard complaints of any intimidation
or election malpractices all over the country.
1995 the Legal Practitioners Act, no. 15 of 1995, came into
operation and both attorneys and advocates became legal
practitioners and members of the Law Society of Namibia.
However, the Society of Advocates continued firmed as a
de facto Bar with all its members being issued with
exemption certificates, exempting them from holding a fidelity
fund certificate, because they only accepted briefs from
other legal practitioners holding fidelity fund certificates
without ever receiving direct instructions or money from
clients. The Society anticipated this possible new dispensation
and since 1989 and was prepared for it when it occurred.
Society continued to require that new members should write
Bar examinations during their 4 months of pupilage before
admission to the Bar. Despite the new dispensation the Society
has grown from 15 members in 1995 to a present membership