News and Information

Second court walkout in treason trial
July 5, 2006
Second court walkout in treason trial


THE 12 men charged in the second Caprivi high treason trial staged a second walkout in the High Court in Windhoek yesterday.

The trial of the 12 was supposed to resume yesterday after a three-month break in proceedings.

It restarted on an ominous note when defence lawyers Nate Ndauendapo and Zagrys Grobler again told Acting Judge John Manyarara - as they had done previously, before the matter was adjourned in early April - that they wished to withdraw from the case, as they were not receiving instructions from their supposed clients any more.

Having been told that the 12 have in the meantime also written a letter to the Law Society of Namibia to ask that the two lawyers' conduct should be investigated, Acting Judge Manyarara gave them the green light to take their leave of the matter that is known in court as the case of the State versus Progress Kenyoka Munuma and eleven others.

With that formality disposed of, Deputy Prosecutor General Danie Small called the State's latest witness in the trial, George de Celestino, to the witness stand.

De Celestino, who is a Detective Sergeant in the Namibian Police and a scene of crime officer stationed at Rundu, had accompanied Deputy Commissioner Marius Visser on a journey through a part of the Caprivi Region in August 2002.

With them was one of the 12 men charged in the trial, Frederick Ntambilwa, who pointed out places to Visser where he and other people - allegedly members of a secessionist movement in the Caprivi Region - had been staying in the bush in late 2001 and the early months of 2002.

De Celestino was still in the early part of his testimony, with proceedings in the trial having barely reached the half-hour mark for the day, when the 12 got up in the dock and walked out of court, going down a set of stairs leading to holding cells underneath the courtroom.

They did that as soon as Small had asked if a copy of the album of photographs that were taken during this pointing-out exercise by Ntambilwa could be provided to the 12 so that they could follow the testimony if they so wished.

The court adjourned, and some 20 minutes later the 12 had returned to the dock, like they had also done after a first walkout in early March, when they refused to plead to the charges against them.

"We told this court before that we are not part and parcel of this trial," answered Vincent Siliye, who said he was acting as a spokesperson "of the Caprivi 12", when Acting Judge Manyarara asked why they had walked out of court.

Siliye went on to repeat that statement a couple of times while airing a complaint that the 12 had been forced since March 15 to have their two former defence lawyers remain present while the trial proceeded without them actually being legally represented.

Eventually, Siliye managed to deliver a straight answer to a straight question from the Acting Judge, and told the court that the were still interested in being legally represented during the trial, but that they wanted a lawyer who would carry out their instructions.

A sentence later, Siliye again changed that position, telling the court instead that they did not just want to be provided with new defence lawyers, "since we are not part and parcel of this trial".

It was a wish to have lawyers who would carry out their instructions without question that led to the break in relations between the 12 and Ndauendapo and Grobler in the first place.

The 12 had wanted the two lawyers to mount a legal challenge to the Namibian State's power in the Caprivi Region - or, "to challenge the illegal occupation of the Namibian Government over the Caprivi", as they put it in their letter of complaint to the Law Society - but the lawyers regarded this as an instruction that they just could not carry out.

The 12 are set to return to court today, after Acting Judge Manyarara adjourned proceedings to give Siliye and his co-accused an opportunity to discuss amongst themselves what their stance on legal representation would now be.


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