Namibia: Poll Fraud Trial Revived After State Appeal

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The trial in which former elections chief Philemon Kanime and two co-accused were prosecuted on charges of voter registration fraud dating back 11 years is set to be revived, following a successful appeal by the state against the acquittal of the three accused more than five years ago.

An employee of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), Nico Mingelius, who stood trial with Kanime and another accused, Magnus Nangombe, until they were found not guilty in January 2014, was back in the dock in the Windhoek Regional Court yesterday - having been summoned to appear in court following a successful state appeal against the acquittal he and his co-accused won five years ago.

With Kanime and Nangombe both not in court, public prosecutor Sirkka Nangoro informed magistrate Ileni Velikoshi that the summonses informing them that they were required to appear in court had not been served on them, as the police had not been able to trace them yet.

The magistrate reminded Mingelius of his rights to legal representation, and postponed his case to 25 April.

Two judges of the High Court in November 2017 set aside the acquittal of Kanime, Nangombe and Mingelius, and ordered that they should be subpoenaed to return to the Windhoek Regional Court for their trial to continue. The judges made that order after finding that the three men should not have been found not guilty at the end of the state's case in their trial, since in their view, there was sufficient evidence before the court at that stage to convict them, and that the evidence required an answer from them. Kanime, Nangombe and Mingelius were prosecuted on charges of fraud, while Nangombe and Mingelius also faced counts of forgery and uttering, in connection with Nangombe's registration in March 2008 as a voter in the first Omuthiya local authority election, in which he also ran as a candidate for the then newly formed Rally for Democracy and Progress.

The prosecution alleged that Nangombe failed to register as a voter during the voter registration period from 4 to 8 February 2008, and that his name was fraudulently placed on the Omuthiya voters' roll after the registration period had ended. Kanime was the ECN's director of elections at that stage.

The state also alleged that Nangombe and Mingelius forged a voter registration application in Nangombe's name, and used this document to get Nangombe's name placed on the Omuthiya voters' roll.

In the judgement in which the three men were discharged at the end of the state's case, magistrate Sarel Jacobs accepted that the evidence showed that a forged application form had been used to get Nangombe's name placed on the Omuthiya voters' roll. However, the evidence did not prove that any of the three accused had been responsible for or aware of the forgery, he found.

However, the two High Court judges who heard the state's appeal against the acquittal noted that there was circumstantial evidence on which the three accused could have been found guilty. They said the existence of that evidence meant that Kanime, Nangombe and Mingelius should have been put on their defence to answer to the allegations that they faced.

Magistrate Jacobs, who has in the meantime retired, would have to return to the bench in an acting capacity to continue with the trial - or it would have to start afresh if he is not available. The trial first started in May 2013.

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