High Court Gets New Face After 54 Years

A BUILDING that has been a feature of the Windhoek city centre for half a century, during which it has housed the heartbeat of Namibia’s judicial system, is due to be transformed in a major renovation and expansion project over the next few years.

Construction workers started work on the project, of which the first phase is planned to be completed over a period of about a year and a half, at the end of last week.

By the time the project is completed, the High Court building, situated on the corner of John Meinert Street and Luumlderitz Street, will be bigger and more modern, with additional courtrooms and chambers for judges, new plumbing and electrical wiring, and a new facade.

The current High Court building was constructed at the end of the 1950s and officially opened in April 1960. Since then, the building has been a constant feature on one of the major intersections along Windhoek’s main street.

The original building, which was built at a time the Supreme Court of South West Africa had only two judges, had only three courtrooms. Since then, the court has been expanded to its current form, in which it has nine courtrooms and 12 chambers for judges.

During the first phase of the High Court upgrading project, existing offices used by staff in the court’s registry will be renovated, new offices will be built, a new archive for court records will be constructed, and a new entrance for the building will be built, the court’s Registrar, Elsie Schickerling, says.

The new entrance and new offices will rise where an open space has been in front of the current building since its construction about 55 years ago.

An elevator giving access to all floors of the building and wheelchair ramps will also be installed during the first phase of the project, Schickerling says. In its current form the building has not been wheelchair-friendly due to a set of stairs at its entrance and more stairs between its foyer and courtrooms and the public office where court documents are lodged and can be inspected.

During the second phase of the project two of the existing courtrooms will be split into two courtrooms each and five new courtrooms will be built, increasing the number of courtrooms in the building to 14, Schickerling says.

A part of the existing building where four chambers for judges are currently situated will be torn down during the second phase, and a double storey building with new chambers and offices will be put up in its place. That should increase the number of chambers for judges in the building to 17.

The High Court building that was constructed at the Windhoek Central Prison grounds during 2005 – primarily to be used for the main Caprivi high treason trial, in which 120 men were being tried at that stage – is also being altered at the moment to turn the current courtroom into two courtrooms and to provide two chambers for judges hearing criminal cases, Schickerling says.

When both projects are completed, the two High Court buildings in Windhoek will have a total of 16 courtrooms and offices for 19 judges.

Twelve judges are currently stationed at the Windhoek High Court.

The upgrading of the High Court is budgeted to cost close to N$74 million, according to the National Planning Commission’s development programmes budget for the period from the 201415 to the 201617 financial years.

Source : The Namibian