White-washed Legal Assistance Centre loses relevance

By Victor Angula |

The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a law firm based in Windhoek which was started in 1988 by several white lawyers who had cottoned on to the fact that the days of Apartheid were numbered, has now lost relevance in the Namibian society.

This is so much so that the LAC’s director Ms Toni Hancox would rather block the telephone numbers of members of the public who seek for the “assistance” which is encompassed in the name: Legal “assistance” Centre.

The Centre, which has always styled itself as a public law firm, so that it has continued to receive the bulk of donor funding meant for Namibia’s civil society, has however lost the relevance it may have had in the 1990s and early part of 2000-decade.

Recipient of the Unicef Maurice Pate Human Rights Award in 1997, LAC has consistently over the years gone down the drain despite receiving the bulk of donor funding in Namibia.

In a country where some of the heinous human rights violations are perpetrated by the Judiciary, the LAC’s role has become blurred, hazy and totally irrelevant.

No wonder the LAC, under its director Ms Hancox, would block the number of someone who persistently knocks on their door, trying to reason with them, or look for a way to find common ground.

Indeed the arrogance of the board of LAC, and by extension of its management, is that it will go to the extent of blocking my number – something that no private law firm has done.

If the LAC is a public law firm, one that even in the earlier days gave itself the duty of promoting accountability and responsiveness in the Namibian society, is now blocking people’s numbers, then one may shudder to think that the days of LAC are numbered.

And if a public law firm has more people on its board of trustees than are there legal practitioners in its employ, then it has merely become a white-washed edifice that serves no meaningful purpose to the indigent Namibian society.