The first, apart from one by Rodwell Kasika Mukendwa which is still pending, of a possible avalanche of lawsuits aimed at government by many people exonerated by the High Court on charges of treason, amongst 277 other charges, started in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.
The lawsuit that will be heard by newly appointed Acting Judge Philanda Christiaan was instituted by Clive Kavendji on behalf of Richwell Kulisesa Mahupelo. It is the first of nine lawsuits expected to follow.
Mahupelo is suing the Minister of Safety and Security, the Prosecutor General and the Government of the Republic of Namibia for unlawful detention and malicious prosecution. He claims that he was arrested on March 16, 2000 near Katima Mulilo, while driving together with Aggrey Mwamba and Bennett Matuso. When the car they were driving in was searched the police found an AK-47 assault rifle and they were arrested on the spot, on suspicion of being part of the ‘Caprivi Rebellion’ that attempted to secede the then Caprivi, now Zambezi Region, from Namibia.
The attacks on August 2, 1999 caused the deaths of eight policemen and extensive damage to buildings in and around Katima Mulilo.
That led to mass arrests and was followed by what remains the longest running trial in the history of Namibia, dubbed the ‘Treason Trial’.
Following years of court proceedings, 43 accused were acquitted after successfully applying for release under Section 174 of the Criminal Procedure Act that authorises a court to discharge an accused at the end of the state’s case if sufficient evidence to convict was not produced. Muhepo was one of the treason accused released and he is now suing government for N$15.321 million. He claims he was a successful farmer before his arrest and claims N$780 000 in lost earnings for the time he was in detention and N$14.148 million in general damages.
According to him, he was unlawfully arrested and detained and maliciously prosecuted even after the state realised it had no evidence to convict. According to him, the state should have released him already in 2007 when the evidence against him could not sustain a conviction, but he was intentionally kept in prison with the hope that further evidence against him would come up.
He further claims that his trial was unconstitutionally long. He will be represented by Advocate Andrew Corbett SC assisted by Uanisa Hengari.
The state represented by Advocate Ishmael Semenya SC, assisted by Nixon Marcus, is denying the allegations. According to them the prosecution was the result of compelling evidence that needed to be tested in a court of law.
The prosecutor general denies that she was derelict in her duty to secure the release of Mahupelo after realising she did not have sufficient evidence to convict. According to the PG, neither she nor her employees had knowledge that all evidence that could have implicated Mahupelo was presented at the close of the state’s case against him.
They also deny that Mahupelo was arrested on March 16, 2000, but on April 29, 2000 and was brought before a magistrate on May 02, 2000. The case continues today.