Who is responsible for the Wanaheda death?
The unfortunate circumstances surrounding the death of Fortuna Tenete in a Wanehada police holding cell made newspaper headlines this week with many people pointing fingers at the police for locking up the young lad together with his mother in a cell full of dangerous criminals.
While the police appears to be easy fodder to anyone looking for a scapegoat, I don’t think we will be doing ourselves a favour if we were to ignore the part played by other role players that led to the loss of an innocent life.
Unfortunate as it maybe, I think the death of Tenete brings to the fore the failure of our child welfare system. While it is the view of many people, including the mother of Tenete, that the police are responsible for the loss of the innocent life, I feel questions should be asked, and rightly so, about the effectiveness of the work of the Department of Child Welfare, a department that falls under the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare.
We are told that the office of the Ombudsman in collaboration with the Legal Assistance Centre has launched the so-called high powered investigation into the death of Tenete. We hope that their findings will help to shed light on the effectiveness of child protection services in the country, and about the part that each role player involved in such circumstances should play to ensure that we wont have a repeat of what happened at the Wanaheda police holding cells.
It is my understanding that under normal circumstances, social workers should intervene when a mother has been incarcerated together with a minor by placing the minor in a shelter or in the care of foster parents until the mother has been released if it is proven that there are no immediate family members that can look after the child in the absence of the mother.
But whose duty is it to notify the social workers about the child whose mother has been locked up or is about to be locked up in a police cell or in prison? Is it the duty of the courts or that of the police? These are some of the questions that need to be answered to fully appreciate the culpability of one or several of the parties responsible for the death of Tenete.
According to an official in the Ministry of Gender and Child Welfare, social workers should make routine visits to police stations and remove minors incarcerated together with their mothers and place them in a place of safety. The fact that this was not done also raises genuine questions on the complicity of the child welfare department in the death of Tenete.
In their collective wisdom, the victim’s mother, with help from the Legal Assistance Centre, has decided to sue the ministry of safety. I trust that she is in good hands in her endevour to seek for justice.
Another thing that came to the fore this week in the wake of the Wanaheda tragedy is the paltry monthly grants given to children homes and foster parents for every child in their care. With the cost of living going up every day, surely the N$473 per child given to foster homes or the N$200 per child given to foster parents is just not enough. This money should be revised as a matter of urgency.