News and Information

Absence of accused stalls Caprivi high treason trial
September 7, 2004


A RULING with the potential of determining whether the Caprivi high treason trial in the High Court at Grootfontein would be a stop-start, delay-afflicted affair or not is set to be made by Judge Elton Hoff tomorrow.

The high treason case returned to Judge Hoffs court after a break of a week and a half yesterday, but immediately hit a potentially far-reaching and recurring snag.

With two of the 120 accused on trial absent, and one having indicated that he wished to be present when the court continued to hear evidence, the court was faced with the dilemma of whether the trial should be ordered to continue in the absence of that accused, or should once again be postponed, probably until the beginning of October.

Judge Hoff is scheduled to give his ruling on that question tomorrow.

Yesterdays proceedings resumed only in the afternoon, having failed to get started as scheduled in the morning primarily because of the absence of Barnard Mucheka, who had an operation on his coccyx.

He would be able to return to court only after September 30, his lawyer, Percy McNally told the Judge.

Since Mucheka had expressed a desire to be present when the court proceeded to hear the evidence being delivered by the prosecutions first witness, Warrant Officer Daniel Mouton, McNally asked the Judge for a postponement until Mucheka was able to be present.

Murmurs of disagreement with such a move stirred through the ranks of the 118 accused who were present as soon as McNally had given the first indication that he was asking for a postponement.

It soon appeared that, for once at least, the accused in fact agreed more with the State than with some of the members of their defence team.

Deputy Prosecutor General Herman January told the Judge that the prosecution was opposing any further postponement, while McNally found some support for his concerns over the absence of Mucheka with his colleagues Jonathan Samukange and Henry Chanda.

But from the dock itself, mutterings of yes, yes were heard as soon as defence team member Hennie Krger rose to tell the Judge that he and his clients wanted the trial to proceed without further delay.

He added that the problem confronting the court yesterday might however be a recurring one, and that further delays would only be prevented if the State saw to it that the accused received proper medical treatment and diets.

Defence lawyers Greyson Nyoni, Winnie Sithole Mwenda and Victor Kachaka expressed the same sentiments, each appearing to be getting the same sort of nods of approval and agreement from the men in the dock, before Judge Hoff asked the 14 clients of defence lawyer Patrick Kauta - himself also absent yesterday - what their attitudes were on the request for a postponement.

Each wanted the trial to go ahead.

Two also used the opportunity to give the defence team a public chiding, with Leonard Ntelamo stating that he wanted to put it on record that the defence lawyers had to first consult with the accused on any possible postponements.

Another of Kauta's clients, Muketwa Eustace Sizuka, was more cutting in his remarks.

I never expected this dilly-dally style from the defence team, he told the Judge.

I expected the dilly-dally style from the prosecuting team.

The defence was trying to take time, delay, waste time, he charged.

It was only after they had met with this solid show of dissatisfaction from the suspects ranks that McNally and Samukange rose to also tell the Judge that their other clients, too, were actually opposed to a further postponement.

He was not asking for a postponement just for its own sake, and in fact wanted - like everyone else involved - to see the case get off the ground, McNally had already stated earlier.

If that happens, and whether Mucheka will have to follow the next few weeks of proceedings in the trial from his hospital bed through the reading of court transcripts, will be up to Judge Hoff.

He said he would give his ruling on the issue tomorrow morning.


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