Government, through the Office of the Judiciary, plans to recruit 154 maintenance officers countrywide this year at a total cost of N$38 million, the Windhoek Observer has established.
Namibia has been relying on only one maintenance officer, who has to deal with at least 16,800 pending cases and 1,400 maintenance cases registered on a weekly basis.
Wilhelm Nathinge has been the only maintenance officer in Namibia dealing with thousands of cases with the help of temporary workers and interns since the enactment of the Maintenance Act in 2003.
This is despite the fact that the Act makes provision for each magistrates’ court in the country to have its own maintenance officer and an investigator.
Justice Minister, Albert Kawana, told the Windhoek Observer this week that he had already put in motion plans to recruit additional staff to deal with maintenance cases, although this will depend on the allocation of funds in the 2018/19 budget that will be tabled in Parliament sometime next month.
“You may recall that I said that I have to sit down to study two major laws and one of them is the Maintenance Act. For this Act, we are trying to create additional posts through the Prime Minister’s Office and I can confirm that it has been granted.
“So, we may get a few of them if we are lucky, subject to the availability of funds,” Kawana told the Windhoek Observer.
Kawana was instrumental in crafting the Maintenance Act of 2003 during his previous stint as Justice Minister.
There are currently no maintenance investigators in Namibia, which has resulted in a huge backlog of cases.
Section 8 of the Maintenance Act of 2003 states that in addition to appointing maintenance officers for each magistrates’ court, “The minister or any staff member delegated by the minister, may…appoint maintenance investigators who must perform the functions and duties assigned to or exercise the powers conferred on maintenance investigators by this Act”.
Chief Public Relations Officer in the justice ministry, Penna Master, confirmed the ministry’s plan to recruit maintenance officers.
Some of the responsibilities of a maintenance officer are to establish how and in what way the defendant is failing to maintain or contribute to the child’s welfare and whether the defendant has a regular income or assets from which he or she can fund maintenance.
When asked how the recruitment of additional staff would help the average mother who is claiming maintenance, human rights lawyer, Norman Tjombe said the move would go a long way in ensuring the dignity of ordinary people.
“No doubt the efforts by the Office of the Judiciary to improve the service delivery with increased human resources are most welcomed. It will go a great distance in ensuring that the dignity of ordinary people, most poor and unsophisticated women and children are restored, who often wait for months, sometimes years, to get some outcome of maintenance cases lodged with the courts.
“We have always been saying that we have great laws on child maintenance, but have lacked the required human resources to implement these laws,” Tjombe said.