News and Information
Defiance to the fore in second high treason trial
|March 7, 2006
* WERNER MENGES
A SHOW of defiance from the 12 men in the dock in the second Caprivi high treason trial signalled a stormy start for the main part of their trial yesterday.
The 12 refused to plead to the charges against them, staged a walk-out from court, and then had a defiant statement read to Acting Judge John Manyarara in which they disputed that the Caprivi Region is part of Namibia and that the Namibian Government is legally exercising power in that region.
On top of this, they also indicated to the court that they are not satisfied with the way defence counsels Nate Ndauendapo and Zagrys Grobler have been carrying out their instructions.
They raised the possibility that the two lawyers may yet be forced to withdraw from the case.
The 12 face six charges, including counts of high treason, sedition, public violence and illegal importation and possession of arms and ammunition, over their alleged involvement between September 1998 and December 2003 in plans to secede the Caprivi Region.
They returned to court yesterday for what was supposed to be proceedings that would signal the start of the main part of their trial, with them being asked to plead to the charges against them.
At first the matter could not proceed because the 12 wanted to have a Silozi interpreter present to interpret proceedings for them.
After an interpreter had been organised and Deputy Prosecutor General Danie Small, who is leading the prosecution team in the case, had started reading out the indictment to the court, Acting Judge Manyarara noticed that the interpreter was remaining silent.
When he asked why the proceedings were not being interpreted, he was told that the men in the dock had instructed the interpreter not to translate Small's address for them.
They were not interested in hearing the charges against them, the court was told.
When Small then continued reading out the charges, the twelve got up from their seats in the dock and walked out of court, going down stairs leading from the courtroom to holding cells below the court, a group of armed Policemen following them.
The 12 returned after a few minutes, and Small asked Acting Judge Manyarara whether the charge sheet could be regarded as having been read, since it had been disclosed to the 12 and their lawyers since July 2004 already.
With that procedural hurdle out of the way, the 12 refused to submit any plea to the charges that they face.
The Criminal Procedure Act makes provision for this sort of refusal on the part of an accused person, and pleas of not guilty were noted on behalf of all 12.
They then insisted that they had a statement that they wanted to be read to the court.
Grobler, who is representing one of the 12, John Mazila Tembwe, read the statement, which was promptly admitted as the first piece of evidence in the case, bearing the reference "Exhibit A".
It started off by accusing Acting Judge Manyarara of being biased against them during the hearing of pre-trial issues - without giving concrete grounds for that claim - and then stated that they had instructed their lawyers to place "an application over the jurisdiction of this court to try us on high treason and other related charges" before the court.
"The reason, my Lord, is that we are not Namibians, we are all of us Caprivians," the statement continued.
"We were illegally brought before this court in a foreign country.
This instruction has been considered by both of them (the lawyers) as an impossible one, and decided to withdraw from the case, we put it that it is very important that we should always be represented.
We will wait upon the Directorate of Legal Aid to appoint advocates who can represent us according to our instructions."
The statement was signed by all 12 of the men.
It also stated: "We are all Caprivians by birth, and geographically, historically, culturally, traditionally Caprivi is not part of Namibia and we Caprivians have nothing in common with you Namibians.
Here we are in a foreign court of a foreign country which has no criminal jurisdiction to try us on those charges and the Namibian government are (sic) illegal in Caprivi."
Towards its end, the three-page statement adds: "We therefore my Lord put it before this court that we are not going to plea to all those charges alleged against us as we are not Namibians, but Caprivians, that this court has no jurisdiction to try us, it is a court of a foreign country, that the Namibian government is illegally in Caprivi, that the Namibian government should appoint advocate(s) who will be able to carry out our instructions without fear (...)."
They also complained that they were being kept in custody separate from the 119 men accused in the first, main Caprivi high treason trial.
"It is a violation of our rights to refuse us to talk to our own brothers, sons, uncles and fathers in the prison where we are altogether detained for the same case as awaiting trial," they stated.
The 12 are now scheduled to return to court on Wednesday next week for - possibly, depending whether they will still be legally represented by Ndauendapo and Grobler by then - the court to start hearing the testimony of the State's first witness in the trial.
The 12 are Progress Kenyoka Munuma, who is Accused Number 1, Shine Samulandela, Manuel Makendano, Vincent Siliye, Vincent Sinasi, Alex Mushakwa, Diamond Salufu, Frederick Ntambilwa, Hoster Ntombo, Boster Samuele, John Mazila Tembwe, and Alex Mafwila Liswani.
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