4 January 2013

Namibia: Treason Trial Death Leaves Family With Questions

The family of the late Branson Kwala, who died after spending more than 13 years in jail as one of the accused in the main Caprivi high treason trial, are still looking for answers about the illness that claimed his life.

Branson Mudala Kwala died in Katutura State Hospital on the evening of December 20 last year. He was 75 years old, and was the oldest person in the ranks of the men facing charges in the main Caprivi high treason trial.

Kwala died after he had undergone an emergency operation for a burst intestine, one of his sons, lawyer Frans Kwala, told The Namibian on Wednesday.

Kwala said his father had been complaining that he was not feeling well during the week before his death. He was only taken to a prison clinic, where he was seen by a nurse.

His family then made arrangements for him to be seen by a private doctor, Kwala said.

When he first saw the doctor, three days before his death, he was still able to walk on his own. Two days later, when he was taken to Katutura State Hospital for X-rays to be taken, he could no longer walk on his own, Kwala said.

The late Kwala's family tried to get him taken up in a private hospital in Windhoek, where a medical specialist was supposed to see him, on the evening of December 19, but the hospital refused to admit him as he was under police guard, Kwala said.

He then had to return to Katutura State Hospital, where an emergency operation was performed that night. It was discovered that his intestines had burst, Kwala said.

His father had been in good health throughout his life, and his family is still in the dark about the cause of the condition that claimed his life, Kwala said.

Branson Kwala was a former deputy mayor of Katima Mulilo in the 1990s, his son recalled.

Kwala spent the last 13 years and four months of his life in custody, having been arrested on August 5 1999, during Namibian security forces' sweep of the Caprivi Region that followed on surprise attacks by armed alleged secessionists at Katima Mulilo on August 2 1999.

Kwala, who was a farmer before his arrest, eventually went on trial with 119 co-accused in the High Court at Grootfontein in March 2004, when he and the other accused pleaded not guilty to a total of 278 charges.

During the trial, the prosecution presented testimony to the court in which it was claimed that Kwala had attended meetings in the Caprivi Region at which the idea that the region should secede from Namibia was propagated.

Kwala is the 22nd person facing charges in the main treason trial to have died in custody in the run-up to and during the trial, and was the third accused person to have died during last year. His youngest brother, Steven Kwala (61), who was also one of the accused, also died in custody in August.

With Kwala's death, 107 accused persons remain on trial before Judge Elton Hoff.

Kwala is survived by 12 children and two wives.

He has been buried at Katima Mulilo.

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