The High Court yesterday dismissed a contempt of court application by the office of the ombudsman against the gender equality ministry’s failure to provide a detailed action plan to establish child-friendly jails as ordered by the court.
Last year, High Court Judge Nate Ndauendapo ordered the minister and her team to present a detailed action plan on how they will establish child-friendly jails on or before 31 March.
However, the ministry failed to do so, and consequently, the office of the ombudsman filed a contempt of court application against the gender ministry for failing to comply with the court order.
The office of the ombudsman wanted the court to impose a sentence or fine and to comply with the court order within 30 days of judgement.
But yesterday, the court dismissed the application with no order to cost. The court also deemed the matter finalised and removed it from the court roll. No reasons for the order were provided at the time of going to print.
In the ministry’s defence, minister Doreen Sioka indicated that the non-compliance was not willful or intentional. She indicated in her affidavit the consultative and research process took longer than anticipated.
The process was finalised on 7 June 2021 and her affidavit to that effect was filed on 14 June 2021.
Sioka said she has since filed the report on the steps she has taken to ensure that places of safety and child detention centres are approved, established, and operated as required by law. She has also filed a report on further steps she will take pertaining to the matter at hand.
Sioka’s lawyer Freddy Kadhila submitted that the office of the ombudsman failed to prove that she intentionally failed to comply with the court order.