(2011) JLP 64: 33-63
Oliver C. Ruppel and Katharina Ruppel-Schlichting
The focus of this article is twofold: Firstly to shed light on the concept of legal pluralism from a Namibian perspective. Namibia is a vital example for an African country in which legal pluralism is not only anchored in the Constitution, but also a living reality in legal practice. The article sketches some historical developments in Namibia relevant for the understanding of the coexistence of different legal systems in the country, before discussing the existing and emerging legal setting in the context of national law applicable in Namibia and its international obligations. A focus is placed on the interplay between Roman-Dutch Law, the Common Law and Namibian Customary Law. In order to demonstrate how such pluralism plays a role in the complex national judicial framework, the Namibian court system is briefly introduced and challenges are highlighted by way of examples.
Secondly, Namibia is a member of various political and economic formations on the African continent such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) and also faces international obligations resulting from these memberships. The article also aims to reflect on this African legal architecture, i.e. not only addressing legal pluralism on the national but also on the regional and continental level. After all, the majority of people in southern Africa is not only faced by legal pluralism at the national level, but is increasingly governed by multilayered political or economic regimes which have manifold legal implications. This complex system of multi-level governance depends on the strength of interdependence between the regional, national and local levels. With a view towards a more transnational legal pluralism the article intends to offer an appropriate account of contemporary African legal reality and to reflect legal pluralistic insights beyond territorially-based application in a modern African legal environment