The trial of a Congolese national accused of smuggling at least 15 refugees into Namibia, for a fee, was remanded to 18 October because her new lawyer, still has to familiarise himself with the matter.
Kalundu Kamwi took over the defence of Abigail Bashala after her previous legal aid lawyer Kenneth Siyambango withdrew from the matter. Kamwi told Windhoek High Court Judge Dinnah Usiku that he needs the full record of what has transpired so far in the trial in order to defend his client to the best of his ability.
Bashala pleaded not guilty to 15 counts of migrant smuggling, which forms part of the Prevention of Organised Crime Act when her trial started. According to the State, she performed the unlawful act during October 2013 and again during December 2017 and April 2018. It is alleged that Bashala aided and abetted illegal immigrants to enter Namibia from Zambia for a fee, but that they were discovered at the border post and arrested.
According to the indictment, during 30 October, at the Zambian hike point at Sesheke, she approached Nzinga Muyuka and Muliangala, both of Congolese nationality, who were in transit with their respective families with the aim of seeking asylum in Namibia and offered to assist them in reaching their destination in return for financial compensation. Again, the prosecution alleges, during December 2017 and during April 2018, she aided in smuggling Gilanda Dina Carine and her 13-year-old daughter into Namibia for a fee.
During her testimony, the daughter, who may not be named as she is under-age, testified that she never met or even heard of the accused and that she was accompanied by a man she only knows as Eric to the Zambian/Namibian border and told to tell the border police she is a refugee.
Her mother, however, told the judge that when she had to flee her village in DRC Congo after soldiers attacked them because of her husband’s human rights activities during 2017, she met up with people in the DRC who told her about Bashala and that she can get her to Canada for US$500 (N$7 400 at the current exchange rate).
At that stage, Carine said, she only had US$300 (about N$4 400) in her bank account and she withdrew it and gave it to Bashala’s contact in the DRC to give to her. However, the witness said, it takes more than four months to move from the DRC through Zambia to Namibia and when they arrived in Namibia, they were met at the border crossing by people from the Red Cross who took them to the authorities who then took them to Osire Refugee Camp where they still reside. She further informed the court that when they arrived at Osire, she managed to get hold of the accused who in turn then asked her for another US$500 to facilitate her transition to Canada, but that she again only gave her US$300.
She further said that after she enquired from the authorities what procedures to follow to bring her daughter to her in Namibia, the accused told her that the process will take a long time and will involve the DRC authorities which could put her daughter in danger and for another US$200 (about N$2 900) the accused will bring her daughter to Namibia.
After she paid the money over to the accused, her daughter was brought to Namibia, to the Osire Camp in April 2018, Carine further informed Judge Usiku.
The State is represented by advocate Felicitas Sikerete-Vendura.