Inmates sue government over denial of prescription diet

Hertta-Maria Amutenja

Two inmates from the Hardap Correctional Facility have initiated a lawsuit against the Ministry of Home Affairs, Safety and Security, in which they demand N$1.6 million in damages due to alleged negligence and the cessation of their prescribed diets.

Joseph Shikongo and Wilem Valombola, both serving their sentences at the facility, are each seeking N$800,000 for the suffering they underwent on 19 November and 17 December 2020.

The duo contend they are on lifelong, chronic prescribed medication. This medication must be taken daily alongside their prescribed diets to ensure their health and preserve their lives.

As per their particulars of claim, while incarcerated at the Windhoek Correctional Facility, they consistently received the necessary diet based on prescriptions issued by a certified doctor from the Namibia Correctional Service stationed at the Windhoek facility.

The claim, lodged at the Windhoek High Court in May, identifies the Ministry of Home Affairs, Safety and Security, Raphael Hamunyela (Commissioner General of Namibia Correctional Service), Sam Franz (Officer responsible for the Hardap Correctional Facility), and the Head of the Medical Department at the Hardap Correctional Facility as defendants.

Shikongo and Valombola allege that the sudden discontinuation of their prescribed diets by the correctional officers was unwarranted, deliberate, and capricious, emphasizing the absence of any formal documentation elucidating the rationale behind this decision.

“The correctional officers provided no valid reason for terminating the plaintiffs’ prescriptions. No official documents, either signed or issued by the officers, have been presented to justify the cessation of the plaintiffs’ dietary requirements,” they state in their claim.

Adding to their litany of complaints, the inmates argue that the correctional officers negligently overlooked the potential threats to their health and well-being when they chose to end their prescribed diets.

“The decision not to provide the prescribed diets to the plaintiffs was arbitrary and violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights to human dignity, equality, freedom from discrimination, and administrative justice, as enshrined in articles 8, 10, and 18 of the Namibian Constitution,” their particulars of claim state.

Moreover, Shikongo and Valombola maintain that the severity of their suffering was intensified due to the unfavourable conditions of their detention, which included an inadequate diet and neglect during their period of incarceration.

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