Windhoek-The hearing of a planned appeal by the State against the acquittal of 42 men, who were in September 2015 found not guilty of high treason and other related charges, has seen another delay.
On September 14, 2015 High Court Judge Elton Hoff acquitted the 42 men after he found them not guilty on all 278 charges, including a count of high treason, nine charges of murder and 240 counts of attempted murder in connection with the failed attempt on August 2, 1999 to secede the then Caprivi (now Zambezi) Region from the rest of Namibia.
Not happy with the acquittal, the State led by Senior Public Prosecutor Lourens Campher in October 2015 approached the Windhoek High Court with an urgent application asking the court to be allowed leave to appeal against Judge Hoff’s decision to acquit.
On Wednesday at about 09h00, the 42 acquitted men made another appearance before High Court Judge Christie Liebenberg during a pre-trial conference of case management review and were informed that the hearing of the planned appeal by the State (applicant) against them was to be postponed until April 26.
Wednesday’s postponement for about two months was effected in order to enable the 42 respondents’ defence lawyers to again go through the voluminous court records of the proceedings of the high treason trial in preparation for the defence of their clients.
It was also said in court yesterday that on April 26, a date for the start of the hearing of the State appeal against the acquittal, as well as the name of the judge who will preside over the case, will also be made public in court.
State-sponsored defence lawyers Clive Kavendjii, Profysen Muluti, Ilse Agenbach, Jonathan Samukange, Victor Kachaka, Percy McNally and Hennie Kruger, who represented the 42 acquitted men during the high treason trial, will again defend their clients during the appeal hearing.
However, Kruger, who only joined the respondents’ defence team in respect of the appeal hearing over the past few months, was on Wednesday requested to file his heads of answering arguments before the Registrar of the High Court before or on April 26. The other six defence lawyers have already done so.
The seven defence lawyers are defending the 42 respondents on the instructions of the Justice Ministry’s Directorate of Legal Aid.
Judge Hoff on September 14, 2015 acquitted and released the 42 men after the State had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt their involvement in the failed plot to secede the then Caprivi Region from the rest of the country. The 42 men were part of about 121 suspects charged with taking part in the attacks on several government installations at Katima Mulilo on August 2, 1999.
At the time of the acquittal, the State failed to provide prima facie evidence before court showing that the 42 men indeed took part in the attacks at Katima Mulilo, or had provided support to the so-called Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA).
The attacks targeted the Katima Mulilo Police Station; the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation’s (NBC) regional office; the Wenela Border Post; and M’pacha Military Base and Airport. The people who had attacked the aforesaid government properties were said to have been under the leadership of Mishake Muyongo.
Muyongo and many other alleged leaders of the CLA fled to neighbouring Botswana before the attacks and after the Namibian security forces discovered their underground movement before enforcing tightened security measures in the then Caprivi Region.
Muyongo and former Mafwe Chief Boniface Mamili are now exiled in Denmark after Namibia unsuccessfully pressured Botswana to send them home to stand trial.
At the conclusion of the high treason trial in 2015, a total of 30 other men were convicted and sentenced on one charge of high treason, nine counts of murder, as well as 91 counts of attempted murder.
This includes former DTA parliamentarian Geoffrey Mwilima, who along with four other men who apparently held leadership positions in the secessionist Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA) – a military wing of the United Democratic Party (UDP) – were each sentenced to a total of 18 years imprisonment.
The four others are John Samboma, who was a commander of the CLA, Bennet Kacenze Mutuso, Alfred Tawana Matengu and Teddeus Siyoka Ndala. A group of 15 soldiers of the CLA, who were directly involved in the secessionist attacks on government installations on August 2, 1999, were each sent to jail for an effective 15 years.
The 15 CLA soldiers are Aggrey Kayaba Makendano; Moses Chick Kayoka; Charles Mafenyeho Mushakwa; John Panse Libulo; Albert Sakena Mangilazi; Adour Mutalife Chika; Postrick Mowa Mwinga; Chris Puisano Ntaba; Alfred Lupelazi Siyata; Charles Mainga; Richard Libano Misuha; Matheus Munali Pungula; Ndala Svious Tutalife; Kingsley Mwiya Musheba; and John Panse Libulo.
Nine convicted supporters of the separatists’ plan to secede the then Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia were each sentenced to 10 years imprisonment. They are Mathews Muyandulwa Sasele; Victor Maseyi Matengu; Richard Mundia; Kester Kambunga; Fabian Simiyasa; Raphael Lifumbela; Martin Tabaundule; Rodwell Sihela Mwanabwe; and Osbert Mwenyi Likanyi.
This group also includes a 74-year-old pensioner, Benhard Maungolo Jojo, who was sent to jail for an effective three years, in consideration of his advanced age.
In addition, three other men found guilty of contravening the provisions of the Immigration Act by exiting the Namibian border to Botswana and later re-entering Namibia illegally, were each sentenced to a wholly suspended sentence of six months in prison.
The trio – George Liseho, Oscar Puteho and George Kasanga – was released from custody following their suspended sentences.