The trial of the remaining seven treason accused persons in the longest-running trial in the history of Namibia resumed yesterday before acting Windhoek High Court judge Petrus Unengu with the defence’s case.
The judge earlier dismissed a section 174 application which the accused had lodged, and ruled that Progress Kenyoka Munuma (60), Shine Samulandela (53), Manuel Manepelo Makendano (67), Alex Sinjabata Mushakwa (56), Diamond Samunzala Salufu (59), Frederick Isaka Ntambila (55), and John Mazila Tembwe (52) have a case to answer.
One of their co-accused, Hoster Simasiku Ntombo (57), was released after the Supreme Court found he was illegally abducted from Botswana by security f
They were first convicted and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 30 to 32 years by the late Justice John Manyarara in 2007. Those convictions and sentences were, however, set aside by the Supreme Court on appeal in July 2013, and the trial ordered to start afresh before a new judge.
The eight accused, arrested between July 2002 and December 2003, have been in custody now for the past 19 years.
They are charged with taking part in a conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the Namibian government in the former Caprivi region between September 1998 and December 2003.
They face charges of high treason, murder, attempted murder, sedition, public violence and the illegal importation of weapons and ammunition.
The charges stem from an alleged failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi (now Zambezi) from Namibia.
Yesterday, Munuma shared a tale of harassment and incarcerations from the time he fled to Botswana in 1998 until his return and eventual trial on charges of treason during 2005.
According to him, he was on his way to visit friends during October 1998 when he was accosted by members of the Namibian police and defence force. During several interrogations, he was asked about his family, tribe and political affiliations.
“While they did not assault me, the manner in which they were interrogating me was aggressive. I had a feeling that someone would die there, and I did not want it to be me,” Munuma told the court.
He said he managed to convince one of his captors to let him go to the nearest village, whereupon he took the chance to escape to Botswana, and went to a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) base.
While there, he was told that there were several other men who had also escaped into Botswana, and the soldiers were waiting for transport for them to be taken to a refugee camp.
Instead, he said, they were taken to a police station, and then to several prisons where they were kept until someone from the UNHCR came and issued them with refugee status, and they were afterwards taken to the Dukwe refugee camp. Munuma testified that he stayed in Dukwe until 19 November 1999 when he was fetched by a soldier from the BDF under the pretext that he was to go and help the soldier in Francistown, but that was just a ruse.
“I was taken to Francistown, left at the police station and then to the Maun prison. Despite my constant questions about the reasons for my incarceration, the only answer I got was that those were instructions from their superiors,” he informed the court.
In February 2000, he was visited by a woman from the Botswana Council for Refugees, who informed him that he will be taken back to Dukwe. But instead, he was taken to the Francistown maximum security prison, and from there to the Centre for Illegal Immigrants. Here, he was picked up and brought back to Namibia in handcuffs and leg irons. He emphasised that the late Commissioner Abraham Maasdorp, who was in charge of the treason investigation, was present at all times when he was being transferred to the various prisons that he was held in.
The accused denied that he was ever involved with the attacks on Katima Mulilo, or that he planned it with anyone.
He will face cross-examination from deputy prosecutor general Lourens Campher today.
Ilse Aggenbach and George Neves represent Munuma.