Magistrate says court not for babies

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From left, Elizabeth Silas, Rachel Muunditeko and Ndeyamunye Naomi outside court on Monday after they were told to sit outside as they had babies with them.

WINDHOEK – Magistrate Ivan Gawanab on Monday informed mothers with babies appearing in court as part of the ‘struggle kids’ group to leave their babies at home, as the infants disturb court proceedings. The order was not well received by some of the breastfeeding mothers in the dock.

“I do not want to see babies in court, make plans to leave them with someone,” Magistrate Gawanab said. However, one of the mothers said she could not leave her infant boy at home as she is breastfeeding. “I was told to give my baby nothing else but to breastfeed,” the mother informed the court.

Currently there are five mothers from the 181 ‘struggle kids’ who face charges of trespassing and loitering. The matter continued in the Katutura Magistrate’s Court yesterday.

Martin Tuyeni and Thomas Shomeya were absent at the last court appearance, and as a result, their bail money was forfeited to the state. They were remanded in custody and now have to post bail of N$500.

The ‘struggle kids’ were arrested in April after they defied a court order barring them from camping at the corner of Leonard Auala and Hans-Dietrich Genscher streets in Katutura next to the Swapo Party head office. The order also stated they may not unlawfully occupy any property belonging to the City of Windhoek. Hans Thourob represents the State in the matter.

Superintendent Eliaser Iiyambo of the City Police testified as a state witness informing the court that he read the court order in English and Oshiwambo, and the “kids” through their lawyer replied that they understood. The order informed the “kids” not to camp on municipal ground.

The ‘struggle kids’ are all out on bail, which was set at N$500 in April, then reduced to N$200 in May after most could not pay the bail. Towards the end of May, Magistrate Ivan Gawanab further reduced the bail from N$200 to N$50.

The bail was reduced following the intervention of the Ombudsman Advocate John Walters. Walters had informed the court  that he was approached by Judge President Petrus Damaseb to get involved after the leaders of the ‘struggle kids’ wrote to Damaseb about their plight. Walters explained that the accused could not afford the N$200 bail, and asked Magistrate Ivan Gawanab to release them on a warning. Magistrate Gawanab then reduced their bail to N$50.

Hans Thourob represents the state in the matter. Titus Ipumbu represents the ‘struggle kids’. Magistrate Ivan Gawanab is presiding.

By Tunomukwathi Asino

 

 

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