New Era (Windhoek)

2 May 2012

Namibia: Dagga Suspects Plead Not Guilty

Rundu — Five men facing charges of dealing in and possessing cannabis worth N$1.5 million recently pleaded not guilty to the first charge of dealing in the Rundu Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

The five accused persons Ernesto Rukata (27), Martin Jesaya (24), Augustinus Kambonge (31), Belmiro Antonio (39) and Simon Chipoyo (36) were found in possession of cannabis weighing 351.64 kilogrammes between Kahenge village and Nkurenkuru on February 8, this year.

After pleading not guilty to the main charge of dealing in cannabis, four of the accused pleaded guilty to the second charge of possession of cannabis before Rundu Magistrate Hellen Olaija.

The first accused, Rukata, who was earlier represented by attorney Jan Wessels, told the court that he, like the other four accused, will conduct his own defence as he does not have the money to continue with the services of a lawyer. Rukata said he is only pleading guilty to the second charge, because he was the owner of the taxi, and was asked by his co-accused to go and collect bags. He claimed that he did not know what was inside the bags.

The second accused, Jesaya, informed the court that he is not guilty, because he was invited by his co-accused to "do something that he did not know about," while the third accused, Kambonge, indicated that he is innocent because nothing was found in his possession.

The fourth accused, Antonio, said that he was not at Kahenge when the cannabis was confiscated by the Namibian Police, but was instead at Mbambi village - where the police allegedly found him.

The last accused, Chipoyo, pleaded guilty to the charge of possession, and admitted that he was found by the police in possession of the drugs.

He said he went to collect four bags containing cannabis on the banks of the Okavango River and took it to the vehicle, as he was promised N$600 for his troubles.

The magistrate informed the accused that due to the seriousness of the case, she did not have the right to proceed with the case, and said their case would be forwarded to the Prosecutor-General's office for a decision.

Olaija then postponed the case to August 29.

The State, represented by Public Prosecutor Nafimane Halweendo, retained its position of remanding all five accused persons in custody.

The cannabis confiscation is regarded by the police in the Kavango Region as a "breakthrough in their campaign against drug trafficking", since it was the biggest single consignment of cannabis ever to be confiscated in the region.

The confiscation and arrest happened as the police were on their way to Nkurenkuru to attend to an armed robbery. On their way there, the police came across a Rundu-registered Toyota Corolla taxi that was travelling at a high speed towards Rundu. - Nampa

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