09 Jul 2014 08:20am
RUNDU, 09 JUL (NAMPA) - The two Kavango regions do not have shelters for children whose mothers are trial-awaiting prisoners.
Some children stay in the corridors of the police stations or hospitals in the two regions until they are taken in by relatives.
This was revealed during a public hearing before members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender, Youth, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at Rundu on Monday.
Residents of the Kavango East and West regions thus demanded that childrens shelters be built, where children whose mothers are in police custody could be housed until their mothers are released, or when relatives could take them in.
Former Rundu Town Councillor Vicky Kauma told the Standing Committee that losing a child to death in a police holding cell, where protection is supposed to be guaranteed, is traumatic, adding that under no circumstances should children be kept in police cells with their mothers.
A case in point is the death of four-year-old Fortuna Tenete, who was locked up with his mother at the Wanaheda police station in the capital during January this year.
Tenete died when a fellow inmate smashed his head against the floor after an argument with the boys mother.
The suspect, 33-year-old Loise Kaambu, committed suicide in May this year inside the police cells in Gobabis, where she was transferred to after the incident.
Many residents here proposed for a separate holding cell for mothers arrested with their children.
A social worker from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare in the Kavango East Region, Franciska Hamutenya told the committee that they currently keep children whose mothers are in custody in hospital wards because there is no shelter for children in their region yet.
She stated that social workers are not on standby for 24 hours, and thus recommended proper communication between social workers and the police in cases where women are arrested while they have children with them.
Hamutenya then disclosed that her ministry is currently busy renovating a three-bedroom house at Rundu to serve as a safe haven for such children.
On her part, Rundu magistrate Esme Molefe said the justice system in its current form does not protect, and instead overlooks under-age children in custody due to the absence of childrens shelters in some parts of the country.
She said young offenders are facing a lot of difficulties in holding cells, and the court is often faced with situations where parents do not want such children to be released from custody. She thus recommended that Government builds infrastructure to accommodate child offenders.
The magistrate furthermore explained that such safe houses should offer life skills' programmes to teach minor offenders about the negative impacts of crime, while creating activities to keep them positively occupied.
She further proposed that social workers should be on standby at courts to attend to cases where mothers with children are appearing.
NamPols Rundu police station commander, Chief Inspector Andreas Kandjimi confirmed to the Parliamentary Standing Committee that when women with children are arrested here, they usually involve family members to collect the children.
But if that is not possible, the children are kept in police corridors.
Like others, Kandjimi also sees the need for the construction of a childrens shelter.
After the public hearing, the committee visited the Rundu police station holding cells.
The Parliamentary Committee consisted of its chairperson Germina Shitaleni, Nimrod Muremi and committee clerk Anethe Mtambanengwe, and is expected to table the report in the next National Council parliamentary session.
The public hearing is being held to determine measures to ensure that the rights of minor children are protected and ensured while with their mothers in custody.
The hearing is also aimed at establishing the current status of safe houses and shelters, and to establish the state of the rights of children with respect to the justice system.