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Inmates sue Govt for ignoring complaints

2023-09-04  Roland Routh

Inmates sue Govt for ignoring complaints

Two inmates at the Hardap Correctional Facility are suing the security minister, police inspector general and two officers for N$1.1 million over their dignity which was allegedly trampled on. 

Jason Shikambe and Fabianus Shekunyenge submit in their particulars of claim that police officers, only identified as Amushila and Louw, violated their constitutional right to human dignity by refusing to register a complaint they made at a police station. 

Shikambe claims that he was denied the right to initiate criminal charges regarding his stolen spectacles at the Mariental police station on 4 November 2021, while Shekunyenge was apparently denied the right to lay criminal charges against members of the Hardap Correctional Facility for assault. 

They further stated that on 4, 5, 7 and 11 October 2021, the police officers also refused to register a complaint by Shekunyenge for assault by members of the correctional facility. 

These actions violated their constitutional rights, they said, adding that the failure to be allowed to open or initiate criminal charges subjected them to “further and additional pain, suffering and discomfort.” It also degraded them, and violated their right to dignity. As a result, they suffered general damages in the amount of N$1.45 million and cost of suit. They are represented by Kingsley Ngoshi from Enos Mwakondange and Associates, on instructions of Legal Aid.  The matter is being heard by Justice Herman Oosthuizen.  The ministry, represented by Giant Kauari from Denton Brockerhoff Law firm, instructed by Phellem Like of the government attorney, is opposing the suit. 

Kauari raised an objection that the plaintiffs did not comply with section 39(1) of the Police Act, which provides that notice shall be given to the defendant not less than one month before any action is instituted. 

In this instance, they claim that the plaintiffs gave notice to the correctional services and not to the minister and the police, who are actually named as defendants.  As such, the matter is not properly before court and should accordingly be struck off the roll. Furthermore, Kauari said, in the event that the plaintiffs, who lodged the lawsuit on their own before being availed legal representation, claim they are lay persons unfamiliar with court processes and thus failed to meet the mandatory requirements of section 39, the court does not have the power to condone or remedy such a fatal defect.  Theredforee, he asked that the entire claim be dismissed with costs, such to include one instructing and one instructed counsel.

Shikambe and Shekunyenge, however, claim that in their notice that they mentioned that the officers are employed under the minister as the political head of both ministries. It follows then, they said, that whenever the Police Act or Correctional Services Act makes reference to the minister, such reference is to the minister in these proceedings. Therefore, they argued, a notice served whether in terms of the Police Act or the Correctional Services Act is in terms of the two legislations addressed to the minister.  Judge Oosthuizen heard the special plea yesterday, and reserved judgement on the matter to 15 September.   

2023-09-04  Roland Routh

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