GRN sued for N$8 million over unlawful detention of minor children

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

Four mothers, Launa Safodino, Ana Mandongo, Teresinha Costa and Emilia Navaongelo, have filed a lawsuit against the Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare (MGEPESW), asserting that the government unlawfully, wrongfully, and unconstitutionally detained and took away the liberty of their minor children.

The alleged detention occurred between November 2018 and December 2022, leaving the mothers seeking N$ 2,000,000 each in damages for pain and suffering, violation of their right to dignity, and violation of their human rights.

The particulars of the claim, filed this year at the Windhoek High Court, citing MGEPESW, Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, the Commanding Officer of the Human Trafficking and Money Laundering unit, the Prosecutor General and the Namibian Police Force as the first, second, third and fourth defendants, respectively.

The claim contends that during August 2018, the defendants, acting jointly, unlawfully detained the minors, including Ndeipanda Jason, Manuel Kahavila, Helao Kamuandi and Johannes Paulus, keeping them at an undisclosed location until 16 December 2022.

The mothers argue that the detention lacked judicial authority and was arbitrary and unconstitutional, violating the children’s rights to freedom of movement, liberty and dignity under Article 18 of the Namibian Constitution.

“The detention was arbitrary and unconstitutional in that it was not made for a good and lawful reason and it was made in a manner inconsistent with the doctrine of legality and the rule of law. The detention was made in a manner inconsistent and incompatible with Article 11 of the Namibian Constitution,” they claimed.

The legal dispute originated from a report of suspected child trafficking received by a social worker within MGEPESW in September 2018.

The minors were subsequently placed in a Residential Child Care Facility, received education in a private bridging school, and later progressed to formal primary education.

In response, the state, through the defendants’ plea, denies any unlawful, wrongful or unconstitutional actions.

They assert that, acting within the scope of the Police Act, of 1990, and the Combatting of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2018, they placed the minor children in a designated place of safety under MGEPESW’s jurisdiction on 12 September 2018.

“It is admitted that the minor children were restored to the plaintiffs under an order of the High Court of Namibia. From November 2018 to December 2022, the first defendant caused the plaintiffs’ periodic access to the minor children, and the minor children remained in a designated place of safety,” read the plea.

Furthermore, the government argues that the minor children were not deprived of personal liberty in violation of Article 7 of the Namibian Constitution.

According to the plea, the children had no lawful presence in Namibia, and their placement in a Residential Child Care Facility was sanctioned by a competent court under the Child Care and Protection Act, of 2015.

The government asserted that the minors’ continued presence in the facility was sanctioned by a court order until their release on February 14, 2023, as per the High Court’s directive.

Judge Esi Schimming-Chase is handling the matter, while the four mothers are represented by Sisa Namandje and the stated is represented by Jolanda van der Byl-Hinda.

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