The 65 trial-awaiting suspects, who stand accused of being involved in a conspiracy to secede the former Caprivi Region from Namibia by means of arms between 1992 and 2002, reportedly suffer rashes and infections from the chemicals that prison authorities use to wash their clothes.
Family members of several of the accused who are currently held at Windhoek Correctional Facility – speaking to New Era on condition of anonymity – say the treason suspects are not allowed to get old clothes from their relatives, only new ones.
“When we bring them new clothes, they only get them a week later because the prison wardens have to wash the clothes first in chemicals,” they said, noting that they are not sure what chemicals are used.
Prison spokesperson commissioner Evy January referred all questions to the police, as the accused are under police custody. Inspector Slogan Matheus from the Namibian Police Public Relations office, however, said although inmates at Windhoek Central Prison “may be trial-awaiting and thus still under the authority of the police, inasfar as their cases are concerned, they are physically under the custody of prison authorities.”
“Hence, the police have not received any complaints from any inmate that warrants police investigations,” he said. A prison warden who spoke to New Era on condition of anonymity, because he is not authorised to speak to the press, said he does not understand the allegations. “Chemicals from where? Those people wear their own clothes that they wash and keep themselves. There is nothing like that,” he added.
Most of the treason accused have been in custody for more than 15 years. Twenty-two of the treason suspects have died while awaiting trial. The charges against them stem from an alleged failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi (now Zambezi Region) from Namibia.
The main treason trial started with 132 in the dock, facing 278 charges, including nine counts of murder and 240 counts of attempted murder. Currently, 65 remain after Judge Hoff discharged 43 of the accused after the State closed its case and the defense applied for a Rule 174 discharge.
The prosecution has argued that it has proven that a terrorist attack on August 2 1999 was carried out by members of a separatist organisation, the Caprivi Liberation Army, created by the then leadership of a former member party of the DTA, the United Democratic Party (UDP). To date 379 State witnesses have testified.
The attacks were allegedly launched on Mpacha military base, Katima Mulilo Police Station, Wenela border post, Katounyana Special Field Force base, and the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s office. Eight people died in the attacks, wherein three alleged attackers also lost their lives.
The State claims the attacks were carried out with the aim of using violence to take secede the region. All accused denied guilt at the start of the trial in a specially-constituted High Court at Grootfontein in August 2004.