Ombudsman’s Office in Oshakati a Godsend for the Poor

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By William J. Mbangula OSHAKATI The opening of the Office of the Ombudsman here has made a significant impact in terms of accessibility for those who need it most, especially the poor. So says the Office of the Ombudsman’s representative here, Timothy Shangadi. The office, which serves six regions, namely: part of Ondjozondjupa, Oshikoto, Oshana, Omusati, Ohangwena and Kavango, was opened in February this year. It is open two weeks of each month in Oshakati while the other two weeks are spent in the field visiting the other regions. In all the regions, said Shangadi, the office is accommodated in the magistrates courts except in Grootfontein where it is operated from the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare. “We are not only confined to the allocated offices in towns, but we visit places of detention, mainly prisons, where we hold intake clinics. The office continues to receive complaints in all towns we operate. We are now able to solve matters right on the spot and in time because in most cases the complainants and the offending institutions are in the same area.” The face-to-face contact gives a personal touch and a sense of dignity to our clients, said Shangadi. Complaints received are mostly related to human rights violations, assault, disrespect for private property and degrading treatment mostly in police cells. Other complaints are related to the administration of justice. They include unnecessary delays in prosecution and appeals. According to Shangadi, about three out of the 84 other cases reported to his office stand out as the most touching ones. The first is to do with an incident involving the Department of Water Affairs where officials are suspected of using government building materials and diesel engines for private purposes. They are also accused of fraudulent claims not consistent with alleged travelling schedules and for work done outside their areas of jurisdiction. Shangadi said such an issue was brought to the attention of the relevant authorities in the Department of Water Affairs, but it appears their supervisors are protecting the culprits. The second case involves some local authorities in the allocation of land. One typical incident is in Oshakati’s Klein Angola residential area at Erf 756 where ten houses are located in one land unit, which is officially registered as one plot. As a result, the occupants of the houses are fighting for the land since there is confusion about the proper demarcation of the land. The incident was reported to the Local Authority, which appears to be reluctant to intervene. Shangadi noted that his office is also investigating an incident of wrongful legal action against a resident of Oshoopala location, Silas Mwanyangapo, who was allegedly maliciously sued by Nampower. Information available to New Era indicates that Mwanyangapo was never involved in the purported incident, which resulted in legal action against him. His car was apparently mistaken for that of the real culprit, but Nampower did not want to listen to this. As a result, Mwanyangapo suffered unfairly by having his car and the stock in his shop auctioned by Nampower’s lawyers to pay for the damages on their car. Police reports and Natis documents seen by New Era show that the accident which resulted in the legal action involved Nampower’s car driver, Anna Marie van Wyk, and a certain Lucas Mushishi from the Etunda Irrigation Scheme in the Omusati region and not Mwanyangapo’s car. Instead of Mushishi being sued by Nampower, if he (Mushishi) at all had wronged the electricity utility, Mwanyangapo became the sacrificial lamb for something he was not involved in. Shangadi pointed out that Mwanyangapo was denied justice.