WINDHOEK – The trial in which prominent Windhoek lawyer Dirk Conradie and his friend Sara Ngenohani Damases, the ex-wife of Deputy Chief Justice Petrus Damaseb, face charges of corruption was prematurely stopped in its tracks when the defence asked the court for a postponement.
Slysken Makando, who appeared on behalf of Conradie and Damases, asked Acting Judge Thomas Masuku to postpone the matter to Thursday next week to allow them to obtain the services of a senior counsel from South Africa, Advocate Vas Soni SC.
According to Makando, they need to sort out the work visa of Soni, which was already approved and will be available today.
He further informed the judge that Soni would only arrive in the country over the course of the weekend and still needs to be briefed.
However, Makando said, they need time to prepare a special plea they intend to lodge on Monday, which will also give the State – represented by Advocate Ed Marondedze – time to reply to the special plea.
Currently, it is not known what the special plea entails except that it has something to do with unlawfully obtained evidence.
Makando reminded the judge that Namibia’s Constitution expressly makes provision for an accused to be represented by a legal expert of his/her choice and said that it would infringe upon his client’s rights to a fair trial if they are not afforded the opportunity.
Soni SC will be the leading counsel, he said, and added that it would be in the interest of justice that he be involved from the start.
Should the court fail to grant them the remand, it could mean that he has to withdraw from the trial and the whole saga will have to start afresh, Makando informed the court.
Marondedze opposed the application and said that the defence knew from July 3 last year that the trial was set to start yesterday.
He lamented the fact that the Prosecutor General’s Office never heard from the defence team until this Tuesday when they received a letter requesting the postponement.
According to Marondedze, it seems that someone, somewhere does not want the trial to proceed, hence these delaying tactics.
He said that the State has gone to considerable lengths and incurred considerable costs to ensure the attendance of the witnesses, some from abroad.
These witnesses have business interests of their own and could become frustrated if they are kept from the businesses and decide to go back to their home countries, Marondedze said. He called Makando’s assertion that he will have to withdraw from the trial if the postponement is not granted “tantamount to blackmail”. Judge Masuku reserved his judgment to today at 11h00.
Conradie and Damases were arrested after recordings of them allegedly trying to solicit bribes from advertising agency DV8 Saatchi & Saatchi.
In the recordings, Conradie is allegedly telling DV8 owners Mark Bongers and his wife Kim they have until June 18, 2012, to give his friend Damases a black economic empowerment (BEE) equity in their company, or risk losing out on the telecommunication giant MTC’s N$60 million advertising tender.
The recording was allegedly made by Bongers in a meeting held at Conradie & Damaseb law firm’s offices on June 12, 2012, where Conradie allegedly stated that he would not allow Advantage Y&R, the agency that has had the MTC advertising tender for nearly 17 years, to continue with the new N$60 million tender.
Conradie and Damases were arrested in June 2012 after Bongers allegedly availed the tape recording to the ACC, but the matter was withdrawn by Magistrate Hileni Kavara on May 31, 2013, when the PG did not decide whether to prosecute or not.
The PG, however, quickly delivered her decision that the matter must be heard in the High Court and Conradie and Damases were re-summoned.