The Namibia Tourism Board’s fight to recover more than N$23 million paid to organisers of the Kora All-Africa Music Awards started in the Windhoek High Court on Monday.
NTB wants the court to compel Ernest Adjovi, Tonata Shiimi and Mundial Telecom, which is based in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, to pay back over N$23 million in public funds.
The money was to be spent on hosting the Kora All-Africa Music Awards during 2016 in Namibia, which never materialised.
The hearing started on Monday before Judge Herman Oosthuizen, with NTB CEO Digu //Naobeb as the first witness in the suit.
During his testimony, //Naobeb explained that NTB entered into an agreement with Mundial Telecom on 4 December 2015 for a Platinum Tourism Promotion Package.
The so-called Platinum Tourism Promotion Package guaranteed 26 promotional television clips to be shown on each participating African country’s public television station for two months prior to the ceremony.
The agreement also included the NTB getting front, middle and back row tickets for very important persons. The NTB was also promised at least 150 gallery seats and a space allocation in the Kora magazine.
It was his testimony that NTB first paid the Adjovi-owned company N$5 million on 22 December 2015, and a further N$5 million the next day. On 7 January 2016, an amount of N$5 million was paid to Mundial Telecom. A final payment of about N$8.5 million was paid on 17 February 2016 – just weeks before Namibia was scheduled to host the awards ceremony on 20 March 2016.
According to //Naobeb, the agreement stipulates in the event that the awards did not take place in Namibia, Adjovi and his company would return the money to NTB within 60 days – with a deduction of less reasonable expenses incurred as determined by the parties in the agreement.
“There is no justification why the respondents refuse to return the funds. These are public funds, and the applicant is entitled to get its money back,” said //Naobeb.
He further added the funds were meant to be used in good faith for the good of NTB but were utilised by the defendants without any benefit to NTB. Last year, the parties tried to settle out of court, but it did not work out, and the matter was placed back on the court roll.
The hearing is scheduled to take place until Friday. In his defence, Adjovi has previously claimed in a witness statement that his local partner’s failure to secure the required waiver to pay import duties or VAT to enable them to bring the equipment for the awards led to the breaching of the contract.
Adjovi also claimed that NTB made late payments, which resulted in them not being able to comply with its obligations timeously.
He also alleged that then-attorney general Sacky Shanghala was well aware of the obligations of all parties involved in the matter as well as the various breaches that resulted in the court case.
According to Adjovi, Shanghala was responsible for drafting the agreements between Mundial Telecom, NTB and the Namibian government.
“During a telephone discussion on March 1, 2016, Mr Shanghala undertook to find the sponsors necessary (as agreed by the government) to cover the costs of supplies and pay them directly. I understood this was the obligation of the government of Namibia in terms of the agreement between it and the first defendant,” Adjovi stated in his witness statement. Local lawyer Thabang Phatela is representing NTB in the matter, with Pierre Erasmus is representing Ernest Adjovi and Mundial Telecom. - email@example.com