Inmate sues for N$6m over exams

Claims humiliation, injury to his self-esteem

28 October 2019 | Justice

A Namibian prisoner is suing correctional services and education authorities for N$6 million, claiming he was denied the fundamental human right to education and became the butt of jokes by fellow prisoners after he could not take the exams he had studied for.

Kassian Mukuve Mbathera (41) has been wrestling with the correctional services authorities at the Windhoek High Court since late 2017 when he filed his first civil claim in which he accused prison officers of failing to stick to their promise of registering him for his Namcol exams.

He withdrew his first case in February 2018, but then launched a second suit, asking the court to award him N$620 000 in damages in September 2018.

This October, Mbathera submitted a notice to amend his previous claim from N$620 000 to N$6 million in damages instead, for the humiliation, injury to his self-esteem and reputation, among other damages listed.

He has also amended his initial list of defendants by adding the education ministry as a fourth defendant, alongside the commissioner-general of the Namibian Correctional Services and the minister of safety and security.

In a special plea submitted to court in February, Correctional Services denied any wrongdoing.

They underlined that in fact, officials ensured that Mbathera's examination and registration fees were waived under the scholarships fund granted to offenders.

Furthermore, prison officials drove him to the exam centre on the dates in question.

The defendants further argue that the education authorities should be added to the proceedings as the lack of an admission permit to write the exams was not the responsibility of the correctional services but the education ministry.



Excited

Mbathera's amended particulars of claim note that he is currently serving a 19-year prison term for murder, which was handed down in 2015.

In January 2017 he enrolled as a part-time student at Namcol, for English and Biology, while he was still incarcerated at Oluno Rehabilitation Centre near Ondangwa.

He said the studies were aimed at “both self-improvement and as a contribution towards his rehabilitation.”

In February he was transferred to the Evaristus Shikongo prison in Tsumeb. Mbathera said he immediately undertook to inform correctional officers there of his studies.

He claims that while he was verbally assured they would handle his registration, on his behalf, they failed to do so and failed to inform him timeously.

He claims he was told that he was on the list of candidates slated to take their exams, and that as a prisoner he was unable to verify the correctness of the information.

Mbathera says he “waited with excitement” for the date of the exams, unaware that his fees had not been paid, and “undertook intense studies in preparation for the examination”.

On the day he was to write the exams to his “tragic disappointment” discovered his name was not on the list of candidates writing exams.

Mbathera argues that he was denied his constitutional right to education by the prison officials and that following the failure to take the exams he became the “subject of many jokes by the fellow prisoners to his humiliation and indignity.”

The defendants have filed notices to oppose the application and earlier this year lost an attempt to have the case dismissed due a number of technical issues brought to court.

This week the case was postponed to 4 November for a status hearing before High Court Judge Herman Oosthuizen.

Government attorney Jabulani Ncube represents the State.