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We are political activists, says treason accused
July 10, 2006
We are political activists, says treason accused


THE 12 men charged in the second Caprivi high treason trial are not criminals; instead, they are political activists dedicated to winning independence for the Caprivi Region, a spokesman from their ranks declared in the High Court in Windhoek last week.

Vincent Siliye, who is formally designated as Accused No 4 in the trial, addressed Acting Judge John Manyarara for the second time in two days on Wednesday, when the case against the 12 returned to court in a bid to figure out what was to be done on the issue of their legal representation.

Their defence lawyers, Nate Ndauendapo and Zagrys Grobler, finally withdrew from the trial on Tuesday, three and a half months after they first attempted to do so but were told by Acting Judge Manyarara to remain present during further trial proceedings so that the accused could use their services if they so wished.

The relationship between the 12 and Ndauendapo and Grobler hit the skids when the two lawyers decided that they could not carry out an instruction from the 12 that would go to the core of the legal and constitutional status of the Caprivi Region.

The 12 wanted the lawyers to mount a legal challenge against the legality of the Namibian state's control over that region.

Ndauendapo and Grobler's refusal to carry this instruction has not done anything to persuade them to abandon such a legal strategy, Siliye indicated when he addressed the court on Wednesday.

In the process, he also again stated that he and his co-accused - who in essence are charged with allegedly trying to undermine and overthrow the authority of the Namibian state in the Caprivi Region - do not consider themselves to be Namibians and do not believe that the Caprivi Region is even a part of Namibia.

"The reality is we didn't commit crimes here in Namibia," Siliye told the court at one point.

"We went to Botswana to pursue the independence of our country, because the Namibian Government is colonising Caprivi.

This is what we went to Botswana for.

And instead, the Namibian Government went there, to go and collect us."

He was referring to claims by 11 of the 12 accused, who have alleged that they were abducted from Botswana, where they had refugee status after leaving the Caprivi Region, in order to be arrested, charged and detained in Namibia.

That issue had been dealt with and supposedly disposed of last year, when Ndauendapo and Grobler unsuccessfully challenged the jurisdiction of the court over the 11 who claim to have been abducted.

For the accused men, however, it is an issue that had not yet been laid to rest, it appears from Siliye's comments.

Giving the court a further glimpse into his and the other 11 men's mindset, he stated: "Why we went to Botswana, was to pursue the independence of Caprivi.

This is what we are still standing here for.

Why the government of Namibia must supply us lawyers to represent us, to bring the application before any court, whether here in Namibia or anywhere, on the jurisdiction of the government of Namibia over Caprivi is because the Namibian government went to Botswana to collect us."

He also remarked: "We believe that this court has no power over this case.

For that matter, it doesn't give this court the power to judge or try us on criminal charges."

What he and his co-accused were saying, said Siliye, was: "We are here because of Caprivi.

We are not criminals, we are politicians, we are political activists."

They were people who wanted the independence of their country, he added.

Because that was their position, it was, in their view, the duty of the Namibian Government to ensure that they were provided with lawyers who would carry out their instructions to bring a legal challenge to question "the jurisdiction of the Namibian Government over Caprivi and its people".

This was Siliye's stance on the one hand.

On the other hand, he proclaimed repeatedly that he and his co-accused also regarded themselves not to be part of the trial before Acting Judge Manyarara.

Part of the trial or not in their own view, they remain the people who are in the dock in the trial.

As such, it would be in everybody's interests if they are legally represented, Deputy Prosecutor General Danie Small told the court on Wednesday.

The trial of the 12 is set to continue from July 24, after Acting Judge Manyarara adjourned proceedings to give Siliye and his co-accused enough time to apply to the Director of Legal Aid to be provided with legal representation following the withdrawal of their previous two defence counsel.


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