Sioka avoids jail time

Martin Endjala

The Windhoek High Court on Friday exonerated the Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Child Welfare (MGEPECW) from failing intentionally to submit on time a report to the Ombudsman on the Safety of Children in Jail and Detention Centers.

The Ombudsman applied to the High Court to find Sioka guilty and convicted of contempt of court. Government attorney Freddy Kadhila represented Sioka.

The general rule is that costs of suit shall be allowed to the successful party as a matter of course. However, as both parties are funding with taxpayers money, the court did not give any cost order, Judge Nate Nadauendapo ruled.

Sioka, filed an application for condonation for failing to comply with the Court order dated 22 December 2020. She was ordered on 22 December 2020, to file her affidavit before 31 March 2021.

The minister immediately began consultative processes, stakeholder meetings, planning, and collecting relevant information in order to fully address the court on the issues raised in the court order. She then forwarded all documents to her legal representative, Kadhila Amoomo on 30 March 2021 to consolidate the responses into one affidavit.

Unfortunately it took longer than expected and could only be finalized by 7June 2021. She said that by the time they finalized the processes the due date had lapsed and her affidavit could not be filed on time. She submitted that the non-compliance was not willful and apologized to the court.

Sioka pointed out that she consulted officials from her ministry and that of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, Nampol and Correctional Services and other stakeholders to map the way forward, which includes placement, safe custody, protection, rehabilitation and reintegration of child offenders.

She also told the court that she held consultations especially with correctional services and they have agreed to a certain extent to assist with sentenced children and they are looking at ways that they can handle the trial awaiting prisoners to support such categories of children.

Furthermore, the ministry was allocated farm Kaukurus and plans to utilize the farm for safe custody, prevention, early intervention, rehabilitation and reintegration programs targeted for various categories of children including children in conflict with the law, who require diversion programs and those who have been released from prison after serving their sentences.

Social workers from the Ministry conducted assessments on children who have been identified in the court order. The ministry has also capacitated its social workers to ensure the provision of efficient and effective service delivery to children in conflict with the law, with further steps to be undertaken and timelines, Sioka submitted.

The Ministry, she promised, will also upgrade the existing structure at Farm Kaukurus to establish a fully functional detention center which will include prison guards, nurses, doctors, psychologists, instructors and rehabilitation officers. At present her Ministry is unable to provide maximum security for trial awaiting and sentenced children because it does not have human and capital resources to provide a healthy, hygienic and safe environment for these categories of children.

In 2021, it was stated that the ministry will further hold high level meetings between Ministries of Justice, Namibia Police to sensitize and strengthen collaboration on issues pertaining to\ children in conflict with the law, she explained in court papers.

The court order of December 2020 only required Minister Sioka to state what steps she had taken and intent to take, the time lines and to that extent, the affidavit had complied with the order.

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