By: Selma Taapopi
In Grootfontein, a police holding cell that has a maximum capacity of holding 12 inmates has been found to contain more than double that number. In some instances 27 or more inmates were found crowded in a single cell - and this situation is not limited to Grootfontein.
The findings on the general state of holding cells in the country highlighted in the Ombudsman 2021/2022 annual report released today, include blocked sewer pipes, dilapidated holding cells, food shortages, allegations of inmates being assaulted and not being taken for medical treatment on time.
Another overcrowded police station is Omungwelume in the Ohangwena region, which has three cells with the capacity of 30 inmates but has 57 inmates. In addition, a total of 109 inmates were found in the Ohangwena police station holding cells which have a capacity of 90 inmates.
The Ombudsman, advocate Basilius Dyakugha who presented the report to the Speaker of the National Assembly , Peter Katjavivi , said that the state of national police cells are highlighted in the report as a major concern.
" I have also made a short report to those regional leaders, including the governor of a particular region, and then the police regional commanders to address those challenges I have found on the ground. So I think my call upon the speaker through you to the members of Parliament is to look at the aspects, the sections where we are emphasising the environmental aspect and then the conditions of the police cells" said Dyakugha.
The report states that failure and disregard to respond to the Ombudsman enquiries is a systemic problem in the public service, emphasising that public officials such as Ministers, Executive Directors and senior officials are guilty of failure to respond to the Ombudsman’s requests.
Katjavivi assured Dyakugha that the report will be tabled in parliament and members will be given the opportunity to comment on it.
"Don't wait to criticise a particular issue, stand ready to improve what is put before you and this is what we call adding value to the efforts of the office of the Ombudsman. So I wish to reassure you that I will table this report once agains as I indicated earlier in the National Assembly, at the earliest opportunity," Katjavivi said.