News and Information

Second treason trial to start in September
August 1, 2005


THE high treason trial of a second group of men accused of taking part in the attempted secession of the Caprivi Region will not start before September 19 at the earliest, it became clear on Friday.

The 12 men, set to face charges in what will be a second high treason trial linked to the failed secession bid, heard this when they made the latest in a succession of pre-trial appearances in the High Court in Windhoek on Friday.

Their first pre-trial appearance in the High Court took place on June 14 last year.

Since then, their case - in which they face six charges, including counts of high treason, sedition and illegal possession of firearms and ammunition - has been postponed repeatedly without their trial being able to get off the ground.

The trial had initially been scheduled to start on May 16, but has remained stuck in the starting blocks after the legal representation of one of the 12, John Mazila Tembwe, became an issue.

That issue has still not been sorted out, it was indicated to Acting Judge John Manyarara on Friday.

As a result the case has now been postponed to September 19.

The defence lawyer whom the Legal Aid Directorate had instructed to represent the 12, Nate Ndauendapo, informed the court on May 16 that another counsel would have to be instructed to appear on Tembwe's behalf, due to signs that a conflict of interest would arise between Tembwe and his co-accused once the trial gets under way.

The conflict of interest, it has been indicated to The Namibian, is expected primarily because of an extensive confession that Tembwe is alleged to have made after his arrest in September 2002.

After Ndauendapo had raised the issue, the starting date of the trial was changed to June 13, and a Legal Aid counsel, Duard Kesslau, was instructed to represent Tembwe at the trial.

Tembwe has however since then refused to accept the services of Kesslau, having objected to being represented by any lawyer who is in direct Government employ.

An application, in which Tembwe will ask the High Court to review and set aside the Director of Legal Aid's decision to appoint Kesslau as his defence counsel as well as the Director's subsequent refusal to instruct a lawyer in private practice to represent Tembwe, has now been lodged by Legal Assistance Centre Director Norman Tjombe, Acting Judge Manyarara was informed on Friday.

At this stage that application is set to be heard on August 22.

Ndauendapo also indicated to the court on Friday that, depending on the outcome of that application from Tembwe, he may ask for the trial of his remaining 11 clients and of Tembwe to be separated if need be, in order for his clients' trial to start with the minimum further delay.

Deputy Prosecutor General Danie Small, who is set to lead the prosecution of the 12, immediately indicated that the State would oppose such a request for a separation of trials.

Tembwe and his co-accused were arrested on four separate occasions between mid-July 2002 and mid-December 2003.

They have remained in custody since then, and have once again been remanded in custody pending their next date of appearance in the High Court.


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