Retrial in Caprivi high treason case begins Monday

WINDHOEK; The retrial of 10 men convicted and sentenced in 2007 for high treason after a failed attempt to secede the then Caprivi Region from Namibia, will begin in the High Court on Monday.

The retrial was on 20 February this year set to begin on 16 June 2014.

The date for the retrial was announced when the 10 jailed men made another appearance before High Court Judge-President Petrus Damaseb during a pre-trial conference of case management on 20 February 2014.

On the same date, it was also announced in court that Damaseb has been assigned to preside over the retrial.

The date for the retrial was decided upon as per agreement reached between defence lawyer Norman Tjombe and the prosecution’s representative, Deputy Prosecutor-General Danie Small.

In the matter, the Windhoek Supreme Court on 15 July 2013 ordered the retrial of the 10 alleged Caprivi separatists after they successfully appealed against their convictions and sentences on the grounds that the High Court had been biased against them, and that the late acting High Court Judge John Manyarara should have recused himself from the matter.

The 10 men are Progress Munuma, 46; Manepelo Makendano, 55; Shine Samulandela, 41; Alex Mushakwa, 45; Diamond Salufu, 57; Boster Samuele, 39; Alex Liswani, 47; Frederick Ntambilwa, 45; Hoster Ntombo, 44; and 40-year-old John Ntembwe.

On that date last year, the Windhoek Supreme Court ruled that the 2007 high treason trial against the 10 men must be nullified, and that the matter be resubmitted to the High Court for retrial.

As per this ruling, the Registrar of the High Court was directed to put the matter on the court roll by no later than 01 August 2013.

In the High Court matter, the 10 alleged separatists were heavily punished in August 2007 for having played a part in a 1999 failed plot to overthrow the Namibian State’s authority in the Caprivi Region (now Zambezi Region) and attempting to establish a separate State in that region.

At the time, Munuma, Makendano, Samulandela, Mushakwa, Salufu, Samuele and Liswani were each sentenced to an effective 32 years imprisonment.

The remaining three – Ntambilwa, Ntombo, Ntembwe – were each jailed for an effective 30 years.

They were convicted and sentenced on charges of high treason, sedition, public violence, illegal supply of weapons and the illegal possession of weapons and ammunition.

The late judge Manyarara sentenced all 10 high treason convicts in absentia after they refused to sit in the courtroom and listen to the punishment.

Before sending all 10 convicts for such long prison terms, Manyarara said they had all participated equally in their failed plot to secede the Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia.

Based on an unchallenged summary of prima facie evidence led by State witnesses in the High Court trial in 2007, the group was found to have attended several clandestine meetings during 1998 and in 1999 at a number of places in the then Caprivi Region with the view to secede that region from the rest of the country.

This was allegedly done shortly after former Member of Parliament and their leader, Mishake Muyongo, left Parliament and pronounced himself on the secessionist ideas.

It was further said that the 10 men were part of those who recruited several people for the purposes of joining the so-called Caprivi Liberation Army (CLA).

Some of them are said to have gone to Angola’s Unita-controlled areas, and returned to the Caprivi Region with weapons.

Later after the attacks on Government installations on 02 August 1999, they fled the country and joined others at the Dukwe refugee camp in Botswana.

Some members of the group later escaped from this refugee camp, and were deployed in the Caprivi Region, the court heard.

On the contrary, the 10 men had claimed that they had nothing to do with the events of the failed plot to secede the Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia.

They had maintained that they were not Namibians but Caprivians, and that the Caprivi Region was not part of Namibia.

However, the State presented unchallenged evidence that the 10 men are Namibians, and that they unlawfully committed the acts to try and secede the Caprivi Region from the rest of Namibia.

The State also proved that they were in illegal possession of war materials, and that they attacked several places in the Caprivi, damaged property and killed those who attempted to get in their way.

The 10 men remain in police custody at the Windhoek Central Prison’s holding cells until their next court appearance.

Meanwhile, Vincent Sinasi and Vincent Siliye, who were earlier charged along with them, were acquitted after the prosecution’s case was closed.

It was also ordered that all the people who were earlier charged with high treason and decided to testify on behalf of the State should be discharged from any prosecution for high treason and related charges in the case.