WINDHOEK - The trial of eight men still facing charges of high treason, murder, attempted murder, sedition, public violence and illegal importation of weapons and ammunition resumed in the Windhoek High Court this week after the Chief Justice, Peter Shivute, denied a petition directed at him.
The eight had filed an appeal to a decision by Acting High Court Judge Petrus Unengu on the jurisdiction of the Namibian High Court to try them.
Progress Kenyoka Munuma Munuma, 57, Shine Samulandela Samulandela, 52, Manuel Manepelo Makendano, 66, Alex Sinjabata Mushakwa, 55, Diamond Samunzala Salufu, 58, Hoster Simasiku Ntombo, 55, Frederick Isaka Ntambila, 54, and John Mazila Tembwe, 51, remain in the accused dock after the Supreme Court directed in July 2013 that their trial start afresh before a new judge after a successful appeal against their conviction and sentences.
Initially they were 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. The eight accused, arrested between July 2002 and December 2003, have been in custody now for the past 16 years. They are accused of taking part in a conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the Namibian government in the former Caprivi Region between September 1998 and December 2003.
They lost a special plea they lodged against the jurisdiction of the High Court to try them as they claimed the former Caprivi Strip, now the Zambezi Region, was never part of Namibia.
Yesterday, Michael Nawa, who already in July 1998 made a statement to the Namibian Police in which he admitted to having smuggled weapons and ammunition into Namibia together with Munuma, Samulandela, Makendano, Mushakwa, Salufu and Ntambila, took the stand. He maintained that what he said in two statements he made to the police before he fled to Botswana in December 1998 was the truth.
During cross-examination by Ilse Aggenbach and Jorge Neves, the witness said that he cannot remember what he stated in his statements and Judge Unengu gave him time to read through his statements.
Neves especially drilled Nawa on the whereabouts of the ammunition he claimed to have brought in, especially two boxes of bullets and some grenades. Nawa could only answer that he does not know what happened to the ammunition.
The case continues today.
Judge Unengu dismissed their claim in April this year and said in his judgment the state has managed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Caprivi Strip forms part of the national territory of Namibia. “This grants the court territorial jurisdiction and the prosecutor general a competent title to prosecute the accused with the offences as listed in the indictment,” said Judge Unengu.
He pointed out it is common cause that the eight had applied and received Namibian identity documents. They even have been registered voters with Namibian voter’s cards, which indicates they are Namibian citizens. The group argued that they attained such documents for the mere purpose to get services such as banking and to get their children registered in schools.
State Advocate Laurens Campher lamented the fact the eight men keep lodging court applications in order to delay prosecution. According to him they previously appealed, without success, their prosecution on the grounds that the court has no legal jurisdiction to prosecute them and that Namibia’s highest court has already decided that Namibian courts have jurisdiction over them.