Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



In this Article, the authors discuss Namibia's dual legal system, inherited from the previous South African regime, in light of the new government's goal of national reconciliation. After a brief introduction, the authors in Part II address customary law on a theoretical level. They point out that the customary law emerging in Namibia during the colonial era was not a reflection of a true communal tradition, but rather was a tool used to control resources and to redistribute power.

In Part III, the authors review the history of the colonial system in Namibia. The German colonial authorities divided Namibia into the Police Zone and the northern area, dominated by the Ovambo region. The authors outline the different political and legal systems of these regions, focusing first on the situation within the Police Zone, in which white authorities ruled directly, and second, on the situation beyond the Police Zone, in which most rule occurred indirectly via indigenous political institutions.

Part IV discusses Namibia's new Constitution and its relationship to customary law. Certain provisions evidence that customary law continues to exist, but the nature of that system remains unclear. After examining three unsuccessful approaches that Namibia could take to resolve its customary law problem, the authors suggest an integration model. Under this model, the customary law systems followed by various ethnic groups would be integrated and harmonized with the national law system.

To utilize the proposed integration model, Namibian jurists must determine precisely the content of customary law and then must integrate it by creating a single legal system. The authors warn of several problems the government may encounter and provide possible means of handling them. In conclusion, the authors state that the integration model will eventually further the government's unification efforts.