WINDHOEK – The woman accused of luring two underage girls from a village in northern Namibia under false promises of employment and then selling them into sexual slavery denied all charges against her in the Windhoek High Court before Judge Naomi Shivute yesterday.
The suspect Tuufilwa Jonas, 32, answered not guilty to each charge State Advocate Felisitas Sikerete-Vendura put to her through an Oshiwambo interpreter.
She faces five counts of rape and three counts of trafficking in persons.
Her State-funded lawyer, Milton Engelbrecht, informed the court the pleas are in accordance with his instructions and that they will not submit a plea explanation, but will reserve their right to remain silent and put the burden of proof on all the allegations on the State.
The case was supposed to start in May already, but witnesses, especially the two alleged victims, are so scared to face her in court that the prosecution had to ask the court for a postponement to arrange for a victim-friendly courtroom.
The judge granted the application and the victim-friendly courtroom at the Windhoek High Court was renovated and made ready in haste, as it was not in working order due to the ongoing renovations.
A victim-friendly courtroom is usually used when a child or vulnerable witness wants to testify without facing an accused.
Jonas faces the charges after she allegedly trafficked a young girl from Okahenge village in Omusati Region for sexual exploitation during 2012.
According to the State she lured the girl, who may not be named, with false promises of employment to Okahandja where she “sold her into sexual slavery”.
The State charges that during April 2012, Jonas approached the young girl at Okahenge village and advised her to leave school and go work with her (Jonas) in Okahandja, as she had secured employment for the girl, while in actual fact she had agreed with a certain John Puariune that she could get him a girl from the village.
During May 2012, the indictment reads, the girl as per agreement with Jonas followed her to Okahandja, but when she arrived there Jonas told her there was no job and that she had been brought on the request of a man who gave the transport money and with whom she had to live for at least a month.
The indictment further states that regardless of the girl’s refusal, Jonas removed all her belongings and took them to Puariune’s place and during May and June 2012 caused Puariune to have unlawful sexual intercourse with the girl. She is further accused of then collecting the girl’s belongings from Puariune and attempting to force her to move in with one Phillip, which the girl refused.
She then allegedly forced the girl to live with another man, only identified as Nico. According to the indictment this is not an isolated incident as she also “sold” another young girl to Katjipolele Kuhuvamba, who ended up impregnating her.
The case will return today with one of the victims expected to testify and Jonas remains in custody at the Klein Windhoek Police Station.