Inmate gets court order against prison transfer

Judge Shafimana Ueitele

An inmate who sued Namibia’s prison authorities after he was transferred from the Windhoek Correctional Facility to Walvis Bay has won his case in the Windhoek High Court.

In a judgement delivered on Friday, judge Shafimana Ueitele reviewed and set aside a decision to transfer prison inmate Weldrid Langerman from the Windhoek Correctional Facility to Walvis Bay, after finding that Langerman’s constitutional right to fair administrative action was not respected when the decision was taken.

Langerman sued the prison authorities and the minister of home affairs, immigration, safety and security after he was transferred from the prison in Windhoek to the Walvis Bay Correctional Facility in September 2022.

Langerman, who is serving a 14-year prison term on charges of murder and attempted murder, informed the court that he is enrolled with the University of Namibia for a bachelor of law degree and that the transfer to the prison at Walvis Bay made it more difficult for him to continue his studies.

He also informed the court that during the time he has been incarcerated after being sentenced at the end of August 2018, he has successfully completed a bachelor’s degree in logistics and supply chain management through the Namibia University of Science and Technology.

According to Namibian Correctional Service commissioner general Raphael Hamunyela, Langerman was transferred from the Windhoek prison to Walvis Bay because his initial classification as a maximum-security offender was changed to medium security.

Classified as a medium-security offender, Langerman can serve his sentence at Walvis Bay Correctional Facility, which is a medium-security prison, Hamunyela said in an affidavit filed at the court.

He also stated that Langerman was transferred because of security concerns.

In his judgement, Ueitele remarked that the reclassification of Langerman from maximum security risk to medium implied a reduction in security concerns.

Ueitele added: “If there is a reduction in security concerns, it baffles me how security considerations are the basis of the transfer.”

The prison authorities’ assessment and classification of sentenced offenders and also their placement and transfer, are administrative actions that should be reasonable and fair, Ueitele said.

He noted that Langerman was not given an opportunity to be heard and to address the prison officials on concerns that they had about him before the decision to transfer him from Windhoek to Walvis Bay was made.

That failure to give Langerman an opportunity to deal with the correctional officers’ views of him was a violation of the rule that someone affected by a decision has to be given an opportunity to be heard before the decision is made and was fatal to the decision to transfer him, Ueitele stated.

Langerman conducted his litigation against the minister and prison authorities without legal representation.

The minister and prison officials sued by Langerman were represented by deputy government attorney Jabulani Ncube.

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