Two of the eight men still being prosecuted in the long-running second Caprivi high treason trial heard yesterday that they have been found not guilty on a count of murder.
Progress Kenyoka Munuma, who is formally known as “accused number one” in the trial, and Shine Samulandela, who is the second accused in the matter, were discharged on a count of murder in a ruling which acting judge Petrus Unengu delivered in the Windhoek High Court.
On the other charges faced by Munuma, Samulandela and six co-accused, Unengu dismissed an application for them to be found not guilty at the end of the state’s case in their trial.
The charges include counts of high treason, sedition and the importation and possession of firearms, other weaponry and ammunition.
The state accused Munuma and Samulandela of having been involved in the murder of Victor Falali, who was killed in the then Caprivi region near the end of October 1998, after he had left a camp where people recruited to a separatist organisation in the region had gathered for training.
Falali’s killing was a key event in the discovery of the presence of a secessionist movement in the Zambezi region, and was followed by an exodus of members of the separatist Caprivi Liberation Army and its leader, former National Assembly member and official opposition leader Mishake Muyongo, from Namibia to Botswana, where they sought asylum, at the end of October 1998.
In his ruling, Unengu indicated that the evidence which the state placed before the court during the trial did not show that Munuma or Samulandela were the perpetrators who killed Falali.
However, he added, there is evidence before the court that all of the eight accused had been involved in an attempt to secede the Zambezi region from Namibia and that they had taken part in activities to achieve that goal.
The eight accused are standing trial for a second time on allegations that from September 1998 to December 2003 they had been involved in a plot to overthrow the Namibian government in the then Caprivi region and to secede the region from Namibia. They are denying guilt on all charges.
The eight men, together with four co-accused, went through a first trial in the High Court between 2005 and 2007. That trial ended with ten of them being convicted of high treason and sentenced to prison terms of either 30 or 32 years each in August 2007.
The Supreme Court set aside their convictions and sent their case back to the High Court for a retrial in July 2013, after finding that the judge who presided over their first trial should have recused himself from the matter when he was asked to do so following his dismissal of a jurisdiction challenge raised by the accused.
The same jurisdiction challenge, based on a claim that most of the accused involved in the first trial had been abducted from Botswana and brought to Namibia illegally before they were arrested and charged by the Namibian authorities, was again raised before Unengu, who dismissed the challenge in November 2014.
A second special plea, in which the accused disputed that the Zambezi region is legally part of the territory of Namibia, was raised after the first jurisdiction challenge failed. That plea, too, was rejected by Unengu in April 2018, and the hearing of evidence on the merits of the charges against the eight accused started after that.
Five of the accused – Munuma, Samulandela, Manuel Makendano, Alex Mushakwa and John Tembwe – were arrested and charged in Namibia in December 2003, after they had been deported from Botswana.
Another of the accused, Frederick Ntambilwa, was arrested in July 2002. Two of the accused – John Tembwe and Hoster Ntombo – were arrested in September 2002, after they had been deported from Botswana to Namibia.
All of the eight have been kept in custody since their arrest.
The trial is scheduled to continue from 12 July.
Defence lawyers Ilse Agenbach and Jorge Neves are representing the accused. The state is being represented by deputy prosecutor general Lourens Campher.