Namibia: State Concedes On Several Charges in Villa Rosa Murder Trial

21 January 2020

Windhoek — The state yesterday conceded that evidence it presented at the murder and robbery trial of three people, charged with killing an elderly farmer in the Usakos district, did not sustain a conviction of murder for the only woman accused in the matter.

According to state Advocate Marthino Olivier, the evidence, however, does sustain a conviction of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft and of using a motor vehicle without the consent of the owner for Zelda Harases.

With regards to her co-accused Karel Claasen and Dion Haraseb, the prosecution asked Windhoek High Court Judge Christi Liebenberg to convict them on all charges.

The three are being charged with the murder of 71-year-old Willem Cornelius de Klerk at Farm Villa Rosa in the Usakos district. The trio were indicted on a charge of murder, two counts of housebreaking with intent to steal and robbery with aggravating circumstances; a count of robbery with aggravating circumstances; use of motor vehicle without the owner's consent; attempting to or obstructing the course of justice; possession of firearms without a license, and illegal possession of ammunition.

It was alleged by the state that they conspired to kill and rob De Klerk on 19 October 2015 and that they hid the body in an empty water tank to defeat the course of justice.

Both Claasen and Harases testified that they were unwilling partners in the commission of the offences and that they were afraid of Haraseb and complied with his instructions because of the fear.

Mese Tjituri, who appears on behalf of Harases on instructions of Legal Aid, argued that no case was made out against her on all charges, especially in light of the concession of the prosecution. According to Tjituri, the actions of Haraseb on the farm on the day in question was justified under the circumstances, as she feared for her life.

He further said his client did not have the intention to commit the offences and asked that she be acquitted on all charges. For his part, Mbanga Siyomunji, on behalf of Claasen, made short work of his submissions.

According to him, no evidence was presented that his client was guilty of any of the offences. The only offence that was proven by the state, he said, was the possession of a firearm without a licence.

He too argued that Claasen only complied with the instructions of a person in possession of a loaded rifle who already killed a person. According to Siyomunji, his client feared for his life and had no other option but to obey the instructions of Haraseb.

Illeni Gebhardt, who represents Haraseb, also on instructions of Legal Aid, told the court that no evidence was adduced by the state to dispute the version of Haraseb that he and the deceased were involved in a physical scuffle when the first shot went off.

She, however, said Haraseb did exceed the bounds of self-defence when he fired the second shot, when the deceased was already on the ground.

But, she said, this can be attributed to Haraseb still believing his life is in danger as he was "shocked and confused", a statement the court questioned as it was never proposed in evidence. According to Gebhardt, the evidence of the client, whom she said was reliable and truthful should be accepted, as it was not disputed by any of the evidence.

Haraseb pleaded not guilty on the murder charge, saying he defended himself when the deceased was shot and on the housebreaking with intent to rob and robbery charges.

He, however, conceded guilt on the lesser charges of housebreaking with intent to steal and theft of a motor vehicle, as well as the attempting to defeat or obstruct the course of justice and the arms and ammunition charges. Judge Liebenberg reserved his judgment until 9 March.

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