Oshakati — Businessman and mayor of Omuthiya Hiskiel Nanyeni, and eight other prominent northern personalities who were arrested in 2009 for illegally possessing automatic assualt rifles, were scheduled to make their first court appearance in the Oshakati Magistrate's Court yesterday.
But the proceedings were not without drama, much to the frustration of the magistrate with some of the accused absent and only their lawyers present, while some seemingly had communication problems with their lawyers.
Magistrate Bongani Ndlovu who presided postponed the case to November 2013.
The accused business personalities include retail landlord Paavo "Kansas City" Amwele, who owns a string of popular hang-out spots; auto-repair chain workshop owner Sakeus 'Spy' Kanyuguli; husband and wife retailers Andreas and Feni Kalumbu; and David Ndungula, the proprietor of a successful security firm in the north, Nangolo Nekongo, Werner Namugongo and Paulus Matheus.
They were individually arrested in March 2009, after a police raid on their properties after a tip-off.
The accused were found in possession of automatic assault rifles that are only issued to military personnel doing active service.
The collection of arms confiscated by the police consisted of the popular AK-47, the Russian-made machine-gun known the world over for its role in the struggle for independence of many third-world nations.
Police also recovered R5 assault rifles and a R1, which are fully automatic assault rifles first issued by the South African military in the mid-1980s.
The group is being prosecuted under Section 29(1)(A) of the Arms and Ammunition Act of 1996, which prohibits possession of automatic weapons by civilians.
At the time of their arrests, police alleged that the individuals were in the process of upgrading some of the rifles from semi-automatic to fully automatic, in contravention of the Arms Control Act. The case started off on shaky grounds with the different lawyers representing the eight businesspeople pushing in opposite directions.
Lawyer Sisa Namandje represented Amwele, Kanyuguli and Nanyeni, lawyer Fried Kishi represented the Kalumbu couple, while Peter Gleyling of the Gleyling law firm represented the others.
Kishi and Gleyling asked for a postponement while Namandje was ready to proceed, leading to tension that infuriated the magistrate at one point. Apart from not being impressed with Kishi and Gleyling's request to have the case postponed, magistrate Ndlovu also blamed the prosecution team for the postponement of the matter.
"Justice is for all. As much as justice should be extended to [Kishi's client and Gleyling's clients], it should be extended to all accused. Let us have everyone involved to be prepared so that we don't have hiccups," said Ndlovu before postponing the case to 2013.
Kishi cited that her client Feni Kalumbu could not show up for the trial due to ill health.
Gleyling on the other hand told the magistrate that he needed time to prepare for the case, citing several reasons including clarification of the contractual agreement between his law firm and Trustco which contracted his law firm on behalf of one of the accused.