Three magistrate’s courts were shut down with immediate effect yesterday for 14 days after two court officials tested positive for Covid-19.
The Katima Mulilo and Katutura magistrate’s courts, as well as the Windhoek Traffic Court were temporarily closed.
According to a statement issued by the Office of the Judiciary, the closures were necessitated when a judicial officer, stationed at the Katima Mulilo Magistrate’s Court, and a prosecutor at the Katutura Magistrate’s Court tested positive for Covid-19 on 24 July 2020.
Ockert Jansen, the spokesperson for the Office of the Judiciary, further explained that the closure of the traffic court in Windhoek was necessitated when an accused person, who appeared in court on 20 July, was tested positive and it was established he was in direct contact with court officials. “Therefore, it is necessary to ensure the temporary closure of the aforementioned courthouses for full decontamination and the testing of all staff members who came into contact with the affected persons,” explained Jansen. Head of the lower courts Chief Magistrate Philanda Christiaan said the Walvis Bay Magistrate’s Court would remain closed while waiting for health authorities to fumigate the premises. Christiaan explained all criminal trials, partly heard matters and other scheduled appearances would be postponed in the absence of the accused for the period of the courts’ closure and a schedule of new dates will be posted outside all court buildings.
Furthermore, accused persons on bail or warning must ensure they familiarise themselves with these new dates. However, urgent bail applications, search and seizure warrants, urgent applications related to childcare and protection statuses will, in the interest of justice, continue unhindered.
“We have engaged various stakeholders in the criminal justice sector to ensure that the closure of the courts during these trying times do not negatively affect accused persons – more specifically those in detention,” said Christiaan.
Although most services have been suspended for the period of the courts’ closure, arrangements have been made to provide certain services to the public.
Clerks of the Maintenance and Domestic Violence Court will be stationed at the Office of the Ombudsman, Katima Mulilo and Windhoek Magistrate’s Court for the period of closure to assist with maintenance payouts and applications for domestic violence orders and related matters.
Maintenance beneficiaries registered for EFT payments will receive their payments electronically as usual. “The public is reminded that more stringent safety measures will be implemented henceforth at all courts countrywide and the public is urged to comply with all such measures,” said Christiaan.