A report, confirming that the bullets that killed a 25-year-old student leader Helao Ndjaba were “most likely” fired from the firearm of Commissioner of Refugees Likius Valombola, surfaced yesterday in his murder trial currently underway in the Windhoek High Court.
The report, authored by ballistics scientist Kallipus Sem of the National Forensic Science Institute of Namibia, only came to light when the presiding judge Claudia Claasen asked additional questions after the State and defence concluded their questioning.
The judge wanted to know from Sem whether the bullets found in the brain of the victim could not be matched to Valombola’s pistol. However, Sem was quick to inform the judge that he had compiled a second report on ballistics tests.
According to him, he test-fired three live rounds from Valombola’s pistol and compared them to the projectile recovered from the victim’s brain. He said the grooves on the test rounds and the projectile matched and that he concluded the pistol of Valombola could not be excluded as the firearm that fired the shots. Sisa Namandje, who is representing Valombola, immediately objected to the report being introduced as evidence, saying if the witness had known previously about the report, he would have devised his defence strategy accordingly.
According to him, he already, during the pre-trial stages of the matter, asked the State to discover all evidence against his client. The State, represented by Ethel Ndlovu, however, informed the court that she too was caught by surprise by the report, as she was unaware of its existence. Judge Claasen, however, ruled the report should be introduced, as the court is entitled to have all evidence in front of it to make an informed decision – one way or the other. Namandje accused the scientist as he did when he questioned the police of doing a half-baked job. Valombola is on trial over the shooting of Ndjaba, a former student leader, who died after nine days in the Katutura state hospital, following a shooting incident in Katutura on 18 May 2018.
Valombola had admitted he fired the shots but denied intending to kill anyone. According to Valombola, he was on his way home with his wife and son when they came across a stationary vehicle. Valombola claimed in his plea explanation that he fired two warning shots in quick succession to ward off an attack after some people became unruly and threatening when asked to move their car by his son.
Namandje argued that his client’s version is that he did not fire in the direction of anyone. If he fired the fatal shot, it was accidental, Namandje said.
Eyewitness reports of the incident at the time said Ndjaba was an innocent bystander who was waiting for a taxi when he was shot. The trial continues.