The three men accused of murdering a fellow convict and threatening other inmates to keep quiet on Friday pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and defeating or obstructing the course of justice.
Herman Rukero, 26, Benedictus Afrikaner, 29, and Maleachi Seibeb, 48 are charged with murdering Eddy /Gomxob, 33, with a sharpened metal piece of a broom at Cell 4 of the Maximum Security Unit (Unit 7) of the Windhoek Correction Facility, allegedly because intimate relations between them had soured.
It is alleged that the three prisoners stabbed Gomxob at least 14 times with the self-made weapon, stomped on his head and also kicked him during lunch-hour on Wednesday January 18, 2012.
According to earlier news reports / Gomxob and Rukero were allegedly involved in an intimate relationship, but Rukero apparently dumped /Gomxob to start a relationship with Afrikaner, which did not go down well with /Gomxob.
Rukero and Afrikaner then apparently lured /Gomxob to a bathroom, where the murder allegedly took place.
/Gomxob was serving a 17-and half-year sentence, while Afrikaner was serving three years and six months at the time of the incident (which he has since completed). Afrikaner remains in custody on the charges he now faces.
Rukero is serving a 19-year prison term, while Seibeb is serving a 28-year sentence.
After State Advocate Ethel Ndlovu read the charges into the record all three accused answered ‘not guilty’ through a Damara/Nama interpreter before Judge Dinnah Usiku.
Local lawyer Mbanga Siyomunji, who represents Rukero and Seibeb on instructions from legal aid, informed the court that the plea is in accordance with his instructions and that his clients will use their right to remain silent and will not disclose the basis of their defense.
They put the onus on the State to prove each and every allegation against them.
Similarly Milton Engelbrecht, who represents Afrikaner, also on a legal aid ticket, informed the court that his client will not submit a plea explanation and tasked the State to prove the allegations against him.
The investigating officer, Warrant Officer Leon Basson, informed the court that when he arrived at the scene on the day in question, Rukero and Afrikaner were handed to him by Chief Inspector Barry de Klerk, who told him they were the main suspects.
Basson said he then arrested them and read them their rights, but both opted to remain silent.
When he was shown the body of the deceased he saw blood underneath the head and further observed various small holes in the body.
It was then that Inspector Mujoro, the head of the Scene of Crime Unit, handed him two iron objects sharpened at one end and covered with plastic at the other.
According to him it was alleged that the objects, which consisted of brackets used to attach a stick to a broom, were likely the murder weapons. Currently the improvised weapons are missing, he said, but every effort is being made to locate them.
Basson also informed the court that Seibeb was arrested the following day after several inmates came forward and told the investigating team that he had also been involved in the attack.
Basson said, prior to that Seibeb had been very co-operative. He had told the officer that he knew exactly what happened and was willing to make a statement, which he gave freely and voluntarily, as he was not a suspect at the time.
It was only after other inmates came forward and said they cannot talk freely, as they were afraid of Seibeb, that he became a suspect and was subsequently arrested.
According to Basson, there were 25 inmates in the cell and while some refused to talk, others were willing to talk, on condition that they be moved from Cell 4 out of fear for their lives. The case continues today.