20 May 2019

Namibia: Accused Man Claims Farmer Was Killed in Self-Defence

ONE of the men charged with having robbed and murdered a farmer in the Usakos area more than three and a half years ago claimed in the Windhoek High Court last week that he acted in self-defence when he carried out the killing.

In a plea explanation given to judge Christie Liebenberg at the start of his trial on Tuesday, Dion Haraseb claimed he shot the 71-year-old farmer Willem de Klerk twice with a firearm belonging to De Klerk while the two of them were involved in a physical struggle.

Haraseb (36) also said De Klerk attacked him with the firearm, and that he was trying to take the gun away from De Klerk when a shot went off and De Klerk was struck.

A second shot went off while De Klerk was falling to the ground, Haraseb further claimed in his plea explanation.

He added that he was shocked and terrified when he realised De Klerk had been killed. Thinking that nobody would believe his version of the incident if he reported it, given that he and De Klerk had a difficult past employment relationship, he panicked and dragged De Klerk's body to an empty water tank, where he hid the body, he said in his plea statement.

Haraseb continued that when he reported the event to a fellow farmworker, Karel Claasen, Claasen agreed with him that no one would believe his version, and suggested "that we should grab as many things as possible and leave the farm".

Haraseb, Claasen (28), and a cousin of Haraseb, Zelda Harases (29), are being prosecuted on a charge of murder, two counts of housebreaking with intent to rob and robbery with aggravating circumstances, a further charge of robbery with aggravating circumstances, and counts of defeating or obstructing the course of justice, possession of firearms and ammunition without a licence, and use of a motor vehicle without the owner's consent.

Claasen and Harases denied guilt on all of the charges on Tuesday. Haraseb pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder and robbery, but admitted guilt on two counts of housebreaking and theft, and defeating or obstructing the course of justice, possession of three firearms and ammunition without a licence, and use of a motor vehicle without the owner's consent.

The state is alleging that Haraseb, Claasen and Harases were jointly involved in the murder of De Klerk at the farm Villa Rosa, situated about 48 kilometres south-west of Usakos, on 19 October 2015.

De Klerk was allegedly shot twice in the abdomen.

According to Claasen and Harases, they were at their house at the farm when they heard the sound of two gunshots. Shortly after that, they state in plea explanations given to the court last week, Haraseb arrived at their house in a bakkie that belonged to De Klerk, and instructed them to accompany him to De Klerk's house, where they had to load goods that had been removed from the house onto De Klerk's lorry.

Claasen and Harases are claiming that Haraseb was armed, and that they complied with his instructions out of fear. The three of them left the farm with De Klerk's lorry, and Haraseb dropped Claasen and Harases off at Usakos, from where they then travelled to Windhoek, where Harases informed her mother of the events at the farm, and they then reported the incident to the police, they stated.

A close friend of De Klerk, Willem Koch, has told the court that De Klerk was in a frail state of health, recovering from a serious illness that had landed him in hospital, at the time of his death.

Koch said he received a phone call from Harases in the early morning hours of 20 October 2015, and that she then told him something bad had happened at the farm, and that De Klerk had been killed. According to Koch, he also spoke to Claasen on the phone at that point, and Claasen informed him "we dragged the body of [De Klerk] to the water tank and put it there".

The trial is scheduled to continue from 1 August.

Claasen and Haraseb are being kept in custody, while Harases has been released on bail.

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