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Death, Detention and Disappearance – lawyer tells the legal story of the liberation war through the lens of a series of cases and incidents

Death, Detention and Disappearance – lawyer tells the legal story of the liberation war through the lens of a series of cases and incidents

A book launch last week served as the backdrop for two of Namibia’s most senior lawyers to reminisce about the undermining of the Rule of Law before Independence in the 1980s Namibia during the liberation war.

Supreme Court judge, Justice David Smuts has just released his book “Death, Detention and Disappearance” that chronicles the often-overlooked battles for justice that was fought in the face of overwhelming odds. The narrative is a combination of personal experiences and a selection of specific court cases or incidents that reflect the glaring absence of the Rule of Law, especially for residents of the North, and for freedom fighters.

Justice Smuts writes that soon after starting in Windhoek as a legal officer in the SWA Territorial Force, he realised that there is much work to be done defending individuals who were at that stage labelled as terrorists and enemies of the state. This almost immediately placed them in legal limbo with very few of the cases actually going to court. In the meantime, a form of Martial Law was enforced by the military with very few of the cases being heard, other than those that had propaganda value.

Detention without trial was rife which led to many other abuses like torture, both physical and mental, deprivation, and murder. At this point Smuts realised that there was more work to protect the rights of detainees than defend the accused in court.

This started a long history of an endless fight against the powers of the state. The book is aptly subtitled, “A lawyer’s battle to hold power to account in 1980s Namibia,” and it relates many incidences where the battle was more procedural than juristic.

Joining Smuts in the highly informative discussion was his life-long friend and colleague, Deputy Judge President Hosea Angula.

Both worked in Windhoek as young lawyers and both took the plight of combatants in the North very seriously. Angula told some very interesting stories of the many times they had to travel to various villages in Owambo in a time “before there were any straight roads.”

The two-man team was often on the hunt for witnesses or had to take statements and affidavits but the subjects could not be traced by address or telephone, instead they had to be physically located at their villages where they resided.

Since every bush road in Owambo invariably splits after a few kilometres, the maze in which they had to travel often proved to be exhausting to the young Smuts’ patience, until Angula convinced him that a more cavalier and philosophical approach is required.

Skirmishes and differences of opinion with the military abound and Smuts wrote about several meetings with the notorious Koevoet commander, General Hans Dreyer. In their quest to find missing detainees, they often had to confront the police and military command structures which lead to spine-chilling encounters with the authorities.

At one point during the book launch, Angula told a story which offered an almost comical view of what was a very serious situation then. He said that Smuts wrote that he (Angula) was “sipping tea with Dreyer” when in fact he was scared to death. Smuts then carried the narrative forward, telling how the general completely ignored Angula for what was a very long meeting, but eventually the two of them left together with the detainees they were tracing.

Although the book covers a traumatic period in Namibia’s history, dealing with issues that have left scars to this day, it is written in an engaging, non-technical style, covering the legal developments in the North through a number of specific cases that all contributed to changing perceptions, and eventually helped paved the way for Namibia’s Independence in 1990.

“Death, Detention and Disappearance” can be ordered through Book Den.

Caption: Justice David Smuts (left) autographing a copy of his book for the Director of the Law Society of Namibia, Mrs Retha Steinmann.


About The Author

Daniel Steinmann

Brief CV of Daniel Steinmann. Born 24 February 1961, Johannesburg. Educated at the University of Pretoria: BA, BA(hons), BD. Postgraduate degrees are in Philosophy and Divinity. Editor of the Namibia Economist since 1991. Daniel Steinmann has steered the Economist as editor for the past 29 years. The Economist started as a monthly free-sheet, then moved to a weekly paper edition (1996 to 2016), and on 01 December 2016 to a daily digital newspaper at It is the first Namibian newspaper to go fully digital. Daniel Steinmann is an authority on macro-economics having established a sound record of budget analysis, strategic planning and assessing the impact of policy formulation. For eight years, he hosted a weekly talk-show on NBC Radio, explaining complex economic concepts to a lay audience in a relaxed, conversational manner. He was a founding member of the Editors' Forum of Namibia. Over the years, he has mentored hundreds of journalism students as interns and as young professional jourlists. He regularly helps economics students, both graduate and post-graduate, to prepare for examinations and moderator reviews. He is the Namibian respondent for the World Economic Survey conducted every quarter for the Ifo Center for Business Cycle Analysis and Surveys at the University of Munich in Germany. He is frequently consulted by NGOs and international analysts on local economic trends and developments. Send comments to

Following reverse listing, public can now acquire shareholding in Paratus Namibia


20 February 2020, Windhoek, Namibia: Paratus Namibia Holdings (PNH) was founded as Nimbus Infrastructure Limited (“Nimbus”), Namibia’s first Capital Pool Company listed on the Namibian Stock Exchange (“NSX”).

Although targeting an initial capital raising of N$300 million, Nimbus nonetheless managed to secure funding to the value of N$98 million through its CPC listing. With a mandate to invest in ICT infrastructure in sub-Sahara Africa, it concluded management agreements with financial partner Cirrus and technology partner, Paratus Telecommunications (Pty) Ltd (“Paratus Namibia”).

Paratus Namibia Managing Director, Andrew Hall

Its first investment was placed in Paratus Namibia, a fully licensed communications operator in Namibia under regulation of the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN). Nimbus has since been able to increase its capital asset base to close to N$500 million over the past two years.

In order to streamline further investment and to avoid duplicating potential ICT projects in the market between Nimbus and Paratus Namibia, it was decided to consolidate the operations.

Publishing various circulars to shareholders, Nimbus took up a 100% shareholding stake in Paratus Namibia in 2019 and proceeded to apply to have its name changed to Paratus Namibia Holdings with a consolidated board structure to ensure streamlined operations between the capital holdings and the operational arm of the business.

This transaction was approved by the Competitions Commission as well as CRAN, following all the relevant regulatory approvals as well as the necessary requirements in terms of corporate governance structures.

Paratus Namibia has evolved as a fully comprehensive communications operator in Namibia and operates as the head office of the Paratus Group in Africa. Paratus has established a pan-African footprint with operations in six African countries, being: Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia.

The group has achieved many successes over the years of which more recently includes the building of the Trans-Kalahari Fibre (TKF) project, which connects from the West Africa Cable System (WACS) eastward through Namibia to Botswana and onward to Johannesburg. The TKF also extends northward through Zambia to connect to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, which made Paratus the first operator to connect the west and east coast of Africa under one Autonomous System Number (ASN).

This means that Paratus is now “exporting” internet capacity to landlocked countries such as Zambia, Botswana, the DRC with more countries to be targeted, and through its extensive African network, Paratus is well-positioned to expand the network even further into emerging ICT territories.

PNH as a fully-listed entity on the NSX, is therefore now the 100% shareholder of Paratus Namibia thereby becoming a public company. PNH is ready to invest in the future of the ICT environment in Namibia. The public is therefore invited and welcome to acquire shares in Paratus Namibia Holdings by speaking to a local stockbroker registered with the NSX. The future is bright, and the opportunities are endless.