Oshakati – Five months after the 56-year-old Angolan Pedro Marcelino Mousongela initially lodged his bail application at the Ondangwa Magistrate’s Court, no decision has yet been made on the matter.
His bail hearing was this week postponed into the sixth month, to February 8 and 9.
The bail hearing could not proceed as scheduled because state prosecutor Dollien Gowases who has been handling the application from the onset is still on leave since she took ill on December 13 last year.
At the time the bail application was rolled over to January, state prosecutor Ester Embanga who stood in for Gowases informed the court the state had not had ample time to arrange for another prosecutor to take over the case.
Mousongela’s bail hearing has been on the roll on different dates since August 31 last year.
Mousongela, a foreign preacher and owner of the Mennonite Private School in Ohangwena Region, was arrested on July 26 last year on three counts of rape, human trafficking and abortion.
The state objected to Mousongela being granted bail from the onset, alleging the suspect committed the offence while on similar charges.
The prosecutor handling the case, Dollien Gowases, at the time also further objected to bail being granted, citing that Mousongela faces complex syndicate crimes of trans-border human trafficking.
Apart from the state objecting to bail, a group of alleged victims and sympathisers also demonstrated against Mousongela being granted bail.
A local lawyer who preferred anonymity said a period of six months is too long to wait before a verdict in a bail hearing can be delivered.
“A bail application should be urgent,” said the lawyer.
Ombudsman John Walters said while not every accused person is assured being granted bail, he said accused persons have a right to apply for formal bail which should be heard and concluded within reasonable time. He said although the timeframe of the bail application will be determined by the complexity of the case, the unavailability of a prosecutor should not be one of the reasons.
“Another prosecutor should have taken over the bail application and not necessarily have postponed it. Bail applications are serious and require an urgent verdict,” said Walters.
He maintained that accused persons are innocent until proven guilty, entitled to liberty and to apply for a formal bail hearing.