News and Information

15 treason suspects dabble with fate
February 14, 2005



TWO leading figures among the 120 Caprivi high treason suspects on trial in the High Court at Grootfontein have made a momentous decision that may prove to be one of the most fateful of their lives.

John Samboma and Thaddeus Ndala told Judge Elton Hoff on Friday that they no longer consider themselves to be part of the trial.

As a result they have decided not to cross-examine the third prosecution witness, Liwate Oscar Simbulu, who had implicated both of them in the activities of an armed separatist movement in the Caprivi Region during October 1998.

Their decision comes with great risks attached.

On Friday, Judge Hoff once again reminded them of the consequences of not challenging a witness's testimony that may have implicated them - that is, that the witness's evidence that is not disputed by an accused person may ultimately be accepted by the court.

He also repeated that he would not allow his court to be held hostage by anyone.

With that, he told Samboma and Ndala that he would not allow Simbulu to be recalled to the witness box in the future to be cross-examined either by them or by the State.

Simbulu had returned to the witness stand to give Samboma and Ndala a chance to cross-examine him, after they told the court on Tuesday that they wanted time to decide whether they wanted to question Simbulu themselves, having lost their legal representation in the trial the previous week.

The defence lawyers who represented Samboma, Ndala and 13 of their co-accused withdrew because of the 15's insistence that they did not want their trial to continue at this stage.

Instead they wanted the lawyers to first place another challenge to the High Court's jurisdiction over them before court - something that the lawyers described as an impossible instruction.

Samboma's response on Friday was to tell the Judge that he wanted to state that he had not dismissed his lawyer, and that it was not of his own making that he was unrepresented.

His defence counsel had withdrawn because the lawyer would not take his instructions on the jurisdiction issue that he wanted to raise.

If the court had received an answer on why the lawyers would not accept those instructions, then he himself had not heard it, Samboma said.

"I am not part and parcel of this trial. The prosecuting authorities of Namibia have no right over me," Samboma stated.

"As from now in this trial, I am not taking part."

Samboma, Ndala and their 13 co-accused want to challenge the court's power to try them with an argument that the Namibian state has no right to govern the Caprivi Region, and therefore no Namibian court had the jurisdiction to try people for alleged crimes claimed to have been committed in that region.

Ndala set out their views in a letter to the Judge.

In it, Ndala reveals one of the reasons, hitherto unmentioned, that might have prompted the lawyers to baulk at challenging the court's jurisdiction on the grounds proposed by the 15.

That reason is that the lawyers simply thought there was no merit in such an application, and that it was doomed to fail.

They nevertheless want to press on with the issue, and want no part in the trial while waiting for the Directorate of Legal Aid to provide them with lawyers to pursue such a jurisdiction application, Ndala told the Judge.

He asked the Judge to excuse the 15 from attending the trial, adding that people could implicate them, but they preferred to remain in prison.

The Police and prison authorities have over the last two weeks forced the 15 to continue to attend the trial.

In the meantime, the fourth State witness has given testimony implicating Samboma and Ndala.

They may be confronted as early as this week with another chance to decide whether to change their tactics and cross-examine that witness.


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