News and Information
Treason witness gets tangled up in dates
|November 10, 2005
* WERNER MENGES
FOR a witness who has been rattling off strings of dates related to the organisation of what he said were a separatist movement's activities in the Caprivi Region, the prosecution's 10th witness in the main Caprivi high treason trial chose the worst of dates to stumble over as his testimony continued for a 12th day yesterday.
For anyone familiar with the events that culminated in armed attacks that alleged secessionists are accused of having carried out at Katima Mulilo a little over six years ago, the prominence of one date - that of August 2 1999, which was when the attacks took place - has grown since then to become a beacon in the history of separatism in the region.
But yesterday, this date turned out to be the latest in a number of dates that appear to have revealed inconsistencies in the witness's testimony - with the witness in effect telling the court yesterday that the attacks had taken place not in the early morning hours of August 2 1999, but only during the following night.
Having been testifying about events that took place as far back as 1985, when he said he first joined the DTA, the witness's testimony has been peppered with dates when he said he was involved in meetings at which the idea of seceding the Caprivi Region from Namibia was first mooted and later came to be actively organised and planned for execution.
At the beginning of his testimony before Judge Elton Hoff in March, when the treason trial was still being heard in the High Court at Grootfontein, he told the court that he first became aware of the idea that the region should be seceded from Namibia to become an independent state on its own during 1989.
Once defence lawyers had started testing his evidence under cross-examination, however, he changed this date to 1985.
He also changed the date that he had been chosen to become a member of a DTA organising committee in the Caprivi Region to 1985, after he had at first told the court this had taken place in 1988.
Yesterday, defence lawyer Patrick Kauta also pointed out to the witness that when he made a first statement to the Police, in March 1999, he had stated that he became such a committee member in 1991.
"All I know is that I became a member in 1985," the witness replied.
"Let's just move on from this issue of a date, because if there's an anomaly, it's because of the person who recorded the statement."
It was through his membership of that committee that he came to be present at meetings where the secessionist idea was first raised, his testimony indicated.
Defence counsel Jonathan Samukange had already challenged the witness on that aspect of his testimony on Tuesday, when he told the witness that his claims of having been a member of a political party and having attended political meetings since 1985 were false.
The witness tried to turn the tables on Samukange and send the accusation back where it had come from.
"It's not false.
The one who's now telling lies is you.
You are the one who's cheating this court," he answered the lawyer.
Samukange's stride was not broken.
"I put it to you that you are a walking fraud," he told the witness next.
"You are the great liar," the witness replied.
According to the witness's testimony - Judge Hoff has ordered that his name may not be reported by the media, because he has told the court that he fears for his won and his family's safety as a result of him being a State witness in the trial - he had broken ranks with the secessionist movement by the time the August 2 1999 attacks took place.
He no longer prescribes to the idea that the region should be seceded, he stated during Samukange's cross-examination.
In fact, he stated, the mere mention of the United Democratic Party - the Caprivi-based member party of the DTA that is claimed to have been a power base for organisers and supporters of secession in the region - now makes him feel nauseous, he said.
"It makes me feel sick, he said.
"It makes me feel like vomiting when you are talking of UDP."
In the armed assaults on August 2 1999, the attackers, who are alleged to have been members of the separatist Caprivi Liberation Army, which the UDP is alleged to have formed in secret, are accused of having killed eight people.
The witness told the court that he was woken by gunfire when the night-time attack started.
By then he had already received threats that he would be one of the first targets if an attack took place, since he was accused of having been a spy in the separatists' ranks, he claimed.
But once the shooting started, he did not try to seek safety, he told the court; instead, he took his vehicle and drove closer to where the gunfire appeared to be coming from, because he wanted to see for himself who was responsible for the shooting, he related.
That explanation - that he did not run for safety, but rather went closer to the danger - did not make sense, Samukange told him in response.
The witness repeated yesterday that he had heard rumours that were circulating around Katima Mulilo at the time, that an attack was to take place at the town.
He informed two Police officers, Sergeant Eimo Popyeinawa and the late Chief Inspector Erasmus Shishanda, as well as another Policeman, Ben Munzie, who is now one of the 120 men being prosecuted in the treason trial, about the talk of an attack, he said.
That night the attacks happened.
"So you informed the Police on the 1st of August for the first time?" Kauta asked.
"No, I informed them on the 2nd of August, and that night the shootings took place," the witness insisted.
"Every time you've told this story about secession you version has changed," Kauta went on to tell him.
Not surprisingly, the witness did not agree.
Kauta is set to continue with his cross-examination of the witness today.
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