Cases pile up at Oshakati

A new magistrate will be assigned to the Oshakati Magistrate's Court before the end of July, the Judiciary has promised.

22 May 2019 | Justice

A shortage of magistrates at the Oshakati Magistrate's Court has been blamed for the postponement of several cases since April.

A clerk from the Ondangwa Magistrate's Court is reportedly acting as a magistrate and was postponing cases in Oshakati's A and C district courts.

Oshakati district court has four courtrooms, but only three magistrates, with only two on duty recently.

Court A magistrate Cynthia Matiti resigned in March, while Court C's magistrate was on leave.

The deputy director of public relations in the Office of the Judiciary, Ockert Jansen, has denied allegations that there is a shortage of magistrates, despite confirming that a clerk has been appointed as an assistant magistrate.

Jansen said the Oshakati court structure makes provision for one divisional magistrate, also known as the supervising magistrate, two regional court magistrates and one regional court magistrate that serves the Eenhana, Oshakati and Tsumeb circuit. He added that another regional court magistrate serves the circuit courts for Ondangwa, Outapi and Opuwo.

He said the district court consists of four magistrates, of which three are principal magistrates and one an entry magistrate.

“According to our HR records on the establishment of the Oshakati Magistrate's Court, I can confirm that the court is not understaffed in terms of magistrates, as alleged. As can be deduced from the above, all positions are filled except the entry magistrate position that was held by Matiti. The position of Matiti will be advertised together with positions for other stations and will be published later this week,” said Jansen.

“In the case of last week when a clerk of the court did in fact postpone cases, it was due to the fact that one of the current magistrates was on leave, who has since returned to court.

“Overall, as can be seen from the above, the Oshakati court only has one vacancy, and due to the fact that the magistracy has realised the urgent need to fill such a vacancy, it is scheduled to be advertised this week and will most probably be filled by the end of July, after all due processes for recruitment have been followed.”

Jansen made it clear that in terms of Section 11 of the Magistrates Act of 2003, clerks of the court can be appointed as assistant magistrates in the absence of a magistrate, but with limited powers.

He said the clerk was only appointed for the purposes of postponing cases, the granting of unopposed bail, the withdrawal of cases upon the request of the prosecution before pleading, the authorisation of warrants of arrest, executions to be held over 14 days and authorising accused persons to be held in custody.

The clerk is also authorised to handle the estates of deceased persons in terms of the Policy and Procedure Manual for Magistrates, sign formal documents in respect of duties assigned to magistrates following deaths, solemnise marriages and approve applications for temporary liquor licenses.

A source at the court told Namibian Sun that due to cases piling up, the two magistrates on duty do not have the time to attend to cases in the A and C courts.

“People with cases that need to be heard in courts A and C have to spend the whole day at the court. They have to wait to see if the two available magistrates will get time to attend to their cases. If that does not happen, then only from 14:00 the clerk steps in to do the postponements,” the source said.

This sometimes frustrates members of the public who arrive at court on time, only to spend hours there without doing anything.

“Sometimes the public starts shouting at court officials if they stay long without being attended to.”

ILENI NANDJATO

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