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Cases pile up at Okahao over magistrate shortage

2020-11-06  Albertina Nakale

Cases pile up at Okahao over magistrate shortage
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Albertina Nakale

Despite having a police station and a holding cell for trial-awaiting inmates, Okahao is still without a permanent magistrate, a situation that has led to cases piling up.

The town is served by a magistrate who travels from Outapi Magistrate’s Court to hear cases. To compound matters, there are only two magistrates in the entire Omusati region.

These were some of the findings by the National Council’s Standing Committee on Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs that undertook an oversight visit to the Ministry of Justice’s capital projects from 14 July to 14 August 2020.
The oversight visits mainly focused on the development stages of the ministry’s fixed assets that were under construction, renovation, undergoing extension, and completed projects and houses that were bought for the staff of the ministry from 2017/2018 to 2019/2020.

The delegation observed that the Okahao Magistrate’s Court is housed in the building of the former ministry of safety and security and currently being used by the justice ministry.

Okahao is a branch of Outapi Magistrate’s Court and does not have a physical structure of its own.
Upon enquiring about the ministry’s land, committee chairperson Rosalia Shilenga said the official met on-site informed them that a plot was allocated on which to build the Okahao Magistrate’s Court. 

“The public prosecutor shared this information with the delegation, though she had not seen the plot herself. 
“No official houses are allocated to staff members at Okahao and they resort to renting,” the committee reported.
The delegation heard about difficulties experienced by the staff on the ground while executing their day-to-day functions, more especially when consulting on confidential matters since office space is small. 

This situation has forced officials to use courtrooms for consultation purposes.
The committee found that the absence or shortage of a magistrate negatively affects the work as it has created a workload by a sharp rise of cases to between 10 to 12 new cases per day, while the court had 600 cases pending on the roll at the time of the visit by the delegation.
Their court roll is managed based on the availability of the magistrate.
The delegation heard that two or three weeks in a month are allocated to Okahao while one week is for Ruacana.
Besides no office infrastructure another challenge is a lack of internet connectivity.
The delegation was unable to visit Katima Mulilo, Opuwo, Kamanjab, Henties Bay and Walvis Bay due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 
The committee members are Shilenga, Herman Nico Mungenga (vice-chairperson), Titus Kanyele, Michael Shipandeni Shikongo, John Nangolo, Johannes Hamutenya and Nelao Amagulu.
However, the delegation noted progress with the construction of the Windhoek High Court project with its projected space and modern look. This includes infrastructure such as new offices and new chambers for 
The construction of prefabricated courts and offices (adjacent to the already old existing buildings) at various magistrate offices was observed in Rehoboth, Otjiwarongo, Grootfontein, Rundu and Ondangwa. 
They said these new-look structures are fully furnished and neat.
But while viewing the prefabricated courts in Rehoboth, the delegation noted with concern the low-level foundation of the structure, which puts it in a vulnerable position should any natural disaster in the form of flash floods take place.
The delegation equally noted with concern the prefabricated Rehoboth Magistrate’s Court’s proximity to the road and that it creates a security threat for officials.
“Lack of space in terms of confidentiality within some prefabricated building structures is also a concern as it creates unnecessary disturbances to the magistrate when people look for the prosecutor’s services,” they observed.
The Mariental Magistrate’s Court lacks office space as well as court proceedings space.
“The Gibeon Magistrate’s Court is a beautiful structure; however, this facility’s courtroom is dirty and unpleasant since the roof and windows are glued with dirt,” the committee noted. 
The delegation observed that the facility is without running water, while the court is without office infrastructure.
Good progress with quality work was observed at the Keetmanshoop ombudsman construction project despite the Covid-19 lockdown’s impact on material delivery. 


2020-11-06  Albertina Nakale

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