Bar director quits cherished post after 25 years

The Law Society of Namibia said goodbye to its outgoing director, Ms Retha Steinmann, on Wednesday evening at a glamorous farewell held in the grand foyer of the Supreme Court.

Director of Ceremonies, Dr Meyer van der Berg lifted the curtain on a series of proceedings which culminated in the main contribution of the Chief Justice, His Lordship Justice Shivute. The evening turned out to be a Who’s Who of the Namibian legal fraternity.

The farewell reception paid tribute to Retha’s 25-year career as Director of the Law Society. The function also served as a welcome reception for the new Director, Mrs. Neliswa Tjahikika.

The Acting President of the Law Society, Mr. Clive Kavendji, who has served several terms as a member of the Council, handled the welcoming remarks, conveying the image of a director who is relentless in her pursuit of high standards and excellence for all Namibian legal practitioners.

Contributions from friends and colleagues all painted a portrait of a dedicated and capable career woman who took the Company from a fledgling organization with two employees (the manager and a receptionist) operating out of a single office and a small meeting room for board meetings, to today’s empowered national regulator with a small army of staff.

Much to the amusement of the audience, the director’s close friend and also a lawyer, Ms Henriette Garbers Kirsten described the role played by Retha during a career that spanned a lifetime, as she managed stature growth of the Society as a regulator, particularly after the enactment of the merged profession Legal Practitioners Act. As known, Retha is an avid amateur photographer who is always seen with notes in one hand to conduct company business and a camera in the other to capture a visual record of meetings and lectures. She publishes them regularly as condensed photo books, a trait that has prompted Hettie to publish more than 20 congratulatory messages from past presidents and colleagues, in an impromptu publication, just as the director so likes to do. The wish book was presented to Retha as an expensive gift from her admiring colleagues.

During her own speech, Retha was solid and steady as a warship, consistently listing the highlights of her quarter-century career with short anecdotes about the most important milestones. For example, she was elected President of the International Law Association Chief Executives in 2018, the first and so far only African to lead this prestigious international law organization. But when she got to the point where life tested her mettle with serious health issues, she was visibly moved when she recognized her family for supporting her through this difficult time.

Thanks were conveyed by Pius Iikwambi, followed by an unexpected heartfelt message from Doris Hans-Kaumbi on behalf of the Namibian Women Lawyers Association.

(Photograph by Retha Steinmann by Theunis Duvenhage.)