A Congolese national, Abigail Bashala, accused of smuggling at least 15 refugees into Namibia for a fee, yesterday maintained that she never took any money from any of the complainants she is accused of smuggling.
During cross-examination from Felicitas Sikerete-Vendura for the State, she denied emphatically that she charged anyone she “helped” getting to Namibia as refugees.
Sikerete-Vendura asked her why the complainants would all come to court and lie about her taking money from them if it was not true, to which she answered that she does not know, but that they were all lying.
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 in October 2013 and again in 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, on 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 for financial compensation.
Again, the prosecution alleges, that 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 was 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.
At that stage, Carine said, she only had US$300 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 then took them 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.
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 about 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, 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 Refugee Camp in April 2018, Carine further informed Judge Dinnah Usiku. The matter will continue today with submissions of the verdict.
Bashala is represented by Kalundu Kamwi.