The ombudsman has filed a contempt of court application against gender equality minister Doreen Sioka for failing to honour a court order issued on 22 December last year.
Sioka failed to honour a court order directing her to present a detailed action plan to establish child-friendly jails across the country. In the application, the ombudsman is seeking an order that would find Sioka in contempt of court, and consequently convicting her of such.
Should she be convicted, the ombudsman has asked the court to pass an appropriate sentence, either a custodial sentence and/or fine, and/or a suspended custodial sentence consequent to the payment of a fine.
The ombudsman is further seeking an order compelling Sioka to present a detailed plan and programme of action to establish child-friendly jails within 30 days, and to further bear the cost of the application.
Sioka has been given until 11 June to indicate if she will oppose the application against her. Last year, the ombudsman dragged Sioka to court for allegedly failing in her duties when she did not implement chapter five of the Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA), which requires the ministry to ensure the establishment of child-friendly detention centres.
The application followed after the Office of the Ombudsman in October 2020 discovered that at least 30 minors were imprisoned alongside adult inmates around the country. In his affidavit, Ombudsman John Walters indicated that it is the responsibility of the gender equality ministry to appoint or establish designated detention centres for children, and that failure to do so is a violation of their fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms.
He further stated that the gender equality ministry had failed to approve appropriate places of safety in lieu of its failure to establish them.
Judge Nate Ndauendapo last year thus ordered that the minister and her team must present a detailed action plan on how they will establish child-friendly jails. He further ordered the police, without delay and where possible, to ensure that jailed children are separated from adult inmates.