Namibia: Ombudsman not living up to his mandate to protect seals

by Jun 13, 2012Conservation Threats, Seals1 comment

The Namibian ombudsman, currently Adv. John Walters, is mandated by the constitution of Namibia under Articles 89-94. He has the power to take direct action in providing relief by bringing forth an interdict or other suitable remedy as a means to secure the termination of the offending action or the abandonment or the alteration of the offensive procedures as complained against.

As a hybrid institution, the office of the ombudsman incorporates the public protector, anti-corruption, human rights and environmental protection mandates. In addition to the usual ombudsman powers, the Namibian ombudsman has been given stronger remedial authority to provide relief from offensive actions. This includes the enforcement of the law or to challenge the validity of the law and to make recommendations to government for their abolition or reform.

In addition to investigating cases of maladministration and corruption, the ombudsman has the power to investigate matters pertaining to the over-utilisation of living natural resources, irrational exploitation of these resources, degradation and destruction of eco-systems and the failure to protect the beauty and character of Namibia.

On 6 June 2011, a complaint was laid with the Office of the ombudsman. This complaint included, inter alia, the violation of several pieces of Namibian law, including but not limited to the provisions of The Animal Protection Act (1962) and the Marine Resources Act.

The complaint covered the fact that with no scientific backing, the exploitation of the seal colony in the annual seal “harvest” was irrational. It mentioned that with seven major mass die offs of the species since 1992, the continued slaughter of seals is tantamount to the destruction of the fragile Benguela Current Large Marine Ecosystem (BCLME) and that the slaughter of the country’s second largest tourist attraction and a national asset amounted to the failure of protecting the beauty and character of Namibia. The complaint was laid regarding matters past and prior to the date on which it was laid and Adv. John Walters was not tasked to investigate actions that may or may not take place in the future.

In September of 2011, the ombudsman convened a meeting of stakeholders to discuss “the legalities of the annual seal harvest, exploitation of the living natural resources and the method of killing seals in Namibia.”

Stakeholders from both Namibia as well as internationally provided Adv. John Walters with irrefutable evidence that not only is the annual slaughter of seals illegal, but that the seals are fundamentally important apex predators that play a positive role in benefiting the ecosystem and are not responsible for a decline in fish stocks. It was shown that subsequent to South Africa ending their seal cull in 1990, the seal population did not explode as was expected and that fish stocks actually improved under correct management.

More than a year has lapsed since the initial complaint was laid. Adv. Walters has provided no relief to the complainant. He continues to provide one excuse after another as to when his report will be available. He has ignored the international voice of reason to impose a moratorium on the slaughter, despite having been issued with a petition with over 22 000 signatures. His silence has encouraged the Hon Bernard Esau, Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources to allocate additional rights holders to the slaughter without any scientific rationale to warrant such action.

The ombudsman has neither challenged the law, brought forth any interdict nor provided any suitable remedy to the offenses as laid out in the complaint. Adv. John Walters has failed his mandate as the ombudsman of Namibia and his independence and integrity have now been brought into question.

Pat Dickens

Campaign Manager

The Seals of Nam

Tel: (+27) 76 875 3545

Fax: (+27) 86 512 1149

1 Comment

  1. Michelle Walker

    Weak, duplicitous and corrupt! Find the idiot out publicly please