News and Information

Treason Trial Costs Skyrocket
January 31, 2005


By Chrispin Inambao

THE costs of the high treason trial taking place at a makeshift court at Grootfontein are reportedly too high a price even for justice.
The Ministry of Justice that is footing the bill for this historic undertaking is reportedly feeling the pinch.
Figures being mentioned are in excess of a million dollars each month. The State has to pay the salaries of the nine lawyers defending the 120 suspects, the transportation of witnesses and foot the hotel bills of these lawyers and even of the witnesses who in some cases have to be transported from neighbouring Zambia and Botswana.
Some of the lawyers are raking in amounts ranging from N$24 000 to N$55 000 a month after deductions, indicated one source, who had requested anonymity.
Other sources say the escalation in costs is a result of S&T and hotel accommodation that have to be paid to the two prosecutors, the two support staff for the foreign lawyers representing the accused and witnesses.
Though the Ministry of Justice says it is concerned about the delays and the escalating costs, it could not give the exact amount of money it has so far spent on this historic trial that has been beset by numerous delays caused by illness, death and even the suspects who appear to be pulling in different directions with regard to the trial itself as some of them want to be tried while others are challenging the jurisdiction of Namibian courts over them.
The trial has also been affected by an element of the alleged intimidation of state witnesses by some of the high treason accused who despite the seemingly tight security have managed to send out letters intimidating potential witnesses.
Threats to “bewitch” some witnesses are also believed to have been made and this is apparently one of the reasons why the state is at times reluctant to reveal the names of some of its witnesses. Though New Era was unable to contact Patrick Kauta, one of the defence lawyers defending the accused, for comment, Her-man January the Deputy Prosecutor General who is leading the prosecution’s case ironically said: “All of us believe witchcraft is strongly believed in the Caprivi but not all of us share those views.”
New Era understands that some of the witnesses have been threatened not to avail themselves for testimony as they might be “killed” or they are being coerced to “flee” the country. Towards the end of last year, the Office of the Prosecutor-General expressed concern about “letters of intimidation/threats towards state witnesses”.
In her correspondence addressed to the defence counsel dated 04 November 2004, Prosecutor-General Olyvia Martha Imalwa stated: “Kindly be informed that it came to the attention of the prosecutors in the high treason case that letters of intimidation and/or threats and/or letters inciting the commission of defeating or obstructing the course of justice or an attempt thereto are being smuggled from the Grootfontein Prison.”…
“It was further brought to our attention that some legal practitioners representing the accused are assisting their clients to ensure that these letters are dispatched to relatives of accused and /or state witnesses,” she stated at the time.
When asked about the mounting costs of this trial and the continued delays, Lidwina Ndeshimona Shap-wa, the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Justice, declined to divulge figures but she said justice delayed is justice denied.
“We are concerned about the delays but we want justice to be done to the people whether the people are innocent or guilty,” she told New Era. She however acknowledged that it is “very difficult” to budget for this particular trial because new things that are not foreseen usually crop up.
Shapwa said the reason why she could not reveal any information related to the high treason trial was because there could be a lot of implications as long as the case was still before Judge Elton Hoff at the High Court at Grootfontein.
Court proceedings in this lengthy trial where the state has lined up over 100 witness-es, among them a witchdoctor from Zambia, would commence tomorrow.
The high treason trial is a manifestation of an ill-planned rebellion that took place in August 1999 and was reportedly engineered by exiled politician Mishake Muyongo.


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