Judge Elton Hoff has indicated that out of the 16 judgments he has delivered so far in the ongoing Caprivi treason trial ten of the accused could walk out of court free men after spending 16 years in jail awaiting the finalisation of their case.
In most of the cases the judge found that the State had failed to discharge the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
The only white person among the accused, Norman Christopher John Justus, will likely be one of the men that get to take the long walk to freedom after the judge found that the State did not discharge its duty to prove beyond reasonable doubt that he had previous knowledge of the armed attack that occurred on August 2, 1999.
Justus was caught in the dragnet, because he provided bulk fuel to the separatists, but the judge found it was not evidence enough to prove he was part of the uprising.
In the six instances so far where Hoff found that the State did prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused formed part of an uprising to secede the Caprivi from Namibia, he outlined his reasons for the ruling in a very concise manner.
Leonard Mutongo Ntelamo could also walk away as a free man after the judge ruled that the State failed to prove he had any prior knowledge of the attacks in order to be able to notify the authorities about it. The judge said the evidence against Ntelamo was insufficient to warrant a guilty verdict.
For Bollen Mwilima Mwilima, the dice did not fall quite as nicely, as it was found that he was an active participant in the events of that fateful morning. According to Judge Hoff, evidence was produced that Bollen discussed the issue of secession every opportunity he got and was one of the founders of the so-called Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) that aimed to “cut Caprivi” from Namibia by violent means, if necessary.
Charles Nyambe Mainga was also not so lucky. Judge Hoff found that he was a supporter and active mobiliser for the CLA. He said the State produced sufficient evidence to prove the charges against Mainga.
Judge Hoff threw a lifeline though to Kabende Victor Makando when he found that Makando was not properly identified as the man who addressed students on behalf of the CLA and transported them to Botswana to undergo training in guerrilla warfare.
In the cases of Mukweta Eustace Sizuka, Robert Lifazi Chelezo and Gibson Kabunga Luka, Judge Hoff found that the State failed to meet the burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Matheus Muyandulwa and Bernard Maungolo Jojo could, however, not escape the clutches of the law. The judge said he was satisfied the two knew about the secession attempt and failed to inform the authorities, as they were obliged to do by virtue of their allegiance to the Republic of Namibia. He said the State is convinced Jojo was heavily involved in the secessionist movement and was one of its ardent supporters and recruiters.
With regard to Masiye Victor Matengu, the judge said he at the very least had knowledge of the treasonous activities about to take place and had failed to notify the authorities.
Richard Limbo Mukawa was also one of those that were touched with the brush of luck after the judge found that the State failed to prove all the charges against him. Judge Hoff said the fact that Mukawa was a recalcitrant witness, who contradicted himself on various occasions, did not mean the State proved the allegations against him.
Another of the unlucky ones is Alfred Tawana Matengu, whom the judge found not to be a credible witness, as he superbly evaded answering direct questions. According to the judge his testimony, which amounts to a bare denial of all charges, was just “preposterous.” Judge Hoff said he is satisfied the State proved the charges preferred against Matengu, but said he would at the end of his judgment indicate the specific charges, as with the acquittals and other convictions.
In the case of Eugine Milunga Ngalaule, the judge found that there remains doubt whether the State has discharged its onus of proof and therefore the accused must be given the benefit of the doubt.
Another of the lucky ones is Mwilima Gabriel Mwilima, the son-in-law of alleged secessionist mastermind Mishake Muyongo, the leader of the movement who is currently exiled in Denmark.
While the judge found his testimony to be ridiculous and false beyond comprehension, the fact that his wife testified in his favour and came out as an impressive witness may well have saved his bacon.
The judge found that the wife was not discredited in any way and that the State did not succeed in meeting the requirement of proof beyond reasonable doubt.
The marathon ruling in the long-running treason trial is set to continue today.