Sunday, January 26, 2020

Debate Lingers Over National Flag Use
New Era

WINDHOEK – Constitutional Law expert Professor Nico Horn feels there is a need for more interpretation on the National Symbols Act of 2018, which also states the usage of national flags.

This follows a directive from Secretary to Cabinet George Simataa who asked police chief Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga to ensure the 2018 law on national symbols is adhered to. 
The directive is specifically directed on the use of the Namibian national flag by political parties, entities, and candidates for political purposes. 

However, Horn believes it would have assisted the nation if Simataa in his letter to the police chief had explained a little more on how broad the article should be interpreted.

“Some sport fans are afraid that handing out miniature flags to primary school children to wave during an Independence Day celebration may be a criminal offence. Or fans who wave small Namibian flags during an international football, hockey or rugby match may find themselves in court the Monday after the match,” Horn observed.

However, he noted sub-article 6.6 of the National Symbols Act seems to refer to the use of the national flag to further the economic interests of private individuals. Hence, he argued, waving a small flag by children or sports fans is not meant to further any private or economic interests.

“Neither is it done to deceive observers. No one will presume that a group of fans waving flags at sport matches or celebrating independence represent some economic interest,” Horn indicated. Approached for comment, Ndeitunga feels if there is a law that protects the national symbols and how it should be utilised, where and when, all citizens should respect those provisions of the law.

“I am not too sure if the law is crystal clear in most of the issues, but the national flag is the umbrella of all citizens of this country - independently of their political inclination. The national symbols are the symbol of the state and they are not supposed to be utilised to identify a specific political grouping. They are supposed to be used as a unifying symbol of all citizens of the country,” Ndeitunga argued.

He, however, said the law seems to be silent on the use of the national flag. He called for more consultation and debates to ensure there is no ambiguity in the effort of addressing the issue. “This is a symbol for all of us. All Namibian patriots identify with national symbols and the coat of arms. One should not try to own it if you belong to a certain political candidate and political party. The flag should embrace everyone. If you own it, then you are inhibiting other citizens from owning it,” Ndeitunga explained. 

He said they are still trying to follow the avenue of consultation and striving to find an amicable solution accepted by all citizens to ensure that all symbols are used for what they are meant for. Meanwhile, minister of information Stanley Simataa said the national flag is a symbol for unity and should not be used to gain political exposure, political leaders and their supporters have been using their own flags, which identifies them by their party affiliation.

“The law is very clear. The national flag can be used at national events such as sport, but not for political engagements,” Simataa reacted. 

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