The special appeal case of eight men who were challenging the Namibia courts’ jurisdiction to prosecute them on Tuesday fell like a rock from the sky after the Windhoek High Court dismissed their case.
High Court Judge Petrus Unengu dismissed their special plea claim on grounds that eastern Caprivi, now known as Zambezi Region, forms part of Namibia. This, Unengu said, gives the Namibian court legal rights to try the accused. The accused claimed the Caprivi Strip was never a part of Namibia.
Progress Kenyoka Munuma Munuma, 57, Shine Samulandela Samulandela, 52, Manuel Manepelo Makendano, 66, Alex Sinjabata Mushakwa, 55, Diamond Samunzala Salufu, 58, Hoster Simasiku Ntombo, 55, Frederick Isaka Ntambila, 54, and John Mazila Tembwe, 51, will now stand trial on various counts of high treason, sedition, public violence, and illegal importation of weapons and ammunition. Their second trial is scheduled to start on May 14.
Judge Unengu said the state has managed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the Caprivi Strip forms part of national territory of Namibia. “This grants the court territorial jurisdiction and the prosecutor-general a competent title to prosecute the accused with the offences as listed in the indictment,” said Judge Unengu. Unengu pointed out it is a common cause that the eight had applied and received Namibian identity documents. They even have been registered voters with Namibian voter’s cards, which indicates they are Namibian citizens. The group argued that they attained such documents for the mere purpose to get services such as banking and to get their children registered into schools.
Munumu and his co-accused argued in their special plea that the now Zambezi Region did not form part of the German protectorate of South West Africa. Therefore, it did not form part of Namibia when it became independent in 1990.
Unengu noted that Phil yaNangoloh, who was called by the defence as an expert witness, did not qualify to give expert evidence on the boundaries of Namibia. “He might be an expert in another field but surely not on the boundaries of the then South-West Africa now the Republic of Namibia,” said Unengu.
The court found that most of the authorities collected and cited by the defence team were not supported by the evidence testified by the witnesses consequently resulting in the authorities being irrelevant and thus discarded. The case of the eight has been on court’s roll for years going back and forth between the Supreme Court and High Court. In 2014, the group had a successful appeal in the Supreme Court when their 2007 sentences of 30 to 32 years were set aside. Munuma and his co-accused have been in custody the last 17 years for allegedly being part of an armed secessionist organisation in the former Caprivi region, the Caprivi Liberation Army.
According to the prosecution, the group conspired to overthrow the Namibian government between September 1998 and December 2003.
The group were represented by local lawyer Isle Aggenbach, with Advocate Laurens Campher representing the state.