Windhoek taxi drivers' trial back in court

29 May 2013 09:00
WINDHOEK, 29 MAY (NAMPA) - The trial of 70 taxi drivers who were arrested during an illegal demonstration which turned violent in Katutura during January 2011, resumed in the Windhoek Magistrate's Court here on Tuesday.
The trial before Windhoek Magistrate Conchita Olivier saw several Namibian Police officers who were on duty during the taxi drivers' alleged illegal march giving their evidence-in-chief in the case yesterday and Wednesday.
All the 70 arrested taxi drivers denied the charges levelled against them by the State during their last court appearance on 14 November last year.
Their State-appointed lawyers, Petrus Elago and Nicolaas Swartz, were present in court last year when the accused taxi drivers entered their ?not guilty? pleas.
They face four charges: malicious damage to property, preventing police officers from performing their duties, assault, and conducting an unlawful or illegal march.
The number of accused persons had been reduced from 71 to 70 after the State withdrew its case against accused Willem Tangeni Shuuveni, following his death earlier in 2012.
The 70 taxi drivers are free on bail of N.dollars 1 000 each.
On 25 January 2011, the arrested taxi drivers' illegal march degenerated into physical scuffles when police officers, armed with plastic batons and guns, tried to halt it.
The march had involved close to 500 taxi drivers planning to move from Katutura's Donkerhoek residential area into the central business district (CBD).
Some were injured when the police unleashed a volley of rubber bullets into the crowd of protesting taxi drivers, who took to the streets over the implementation of ?high traffic fines?.
They were arguing that the fines would deprive them of their livelihoods.
After the altercations and physical skirmishes with law-enforcement units, the large crowd of taxi drivers eventually retreated to the open area between Donkerhoek and the Lafrenz industrial zone in Katutura, where the police arrested the majority of them.
The traffic fines were, nonetheless, implemented and are still in force after the Ministry of Works and Transport and the Windhoek City Traffic Department refused to give in to the public and taxi drivers' demands for a reduction.
Public Prosecutor Hans Thourob is handling the State's case in the matter, and the trial will continue for the rest of this week.