The Windhoek High Court yesterday dismissed a defamatory suit against Erongo governor Neville Andre in which he was being sued for alleged racist remarks made in July last year.
Andre was dragged to court last year by Sonja Olivier who is the president of the Namibia Gymnastics Federation, where Andre served as deputy president.
At the time Andre was employed in the Office of the Prime Minister. In her suit, Olivier wanted a court order that would compel Andre to give a written apology, mailed to all the committee members.
Furthermore, Andre should pay N$100 000 and the cost of the suit. Olivier instituted a suit against Andre following an email dated 11 July 2019, in which he complained that Olivier was excluding him from the executive committee meetings because he is ‘black’.
On 11 July 2019, Olivier sent an email to Andre informing him that he has forfeited his position as deputy president for not attending two consecutive committee meetings.
Andre replied that he has never missed any exco meeting that was lawful and has always tendered an apology when he was unable to attend.
He further noted: “I have observed unfair treatment of myself on the issues that are lawful, but you have ignored. To me, it is clear that you want me out of the exco because I am black, and you have a serious issue against me being deputy president.”
Olivier viewed Andre’s words as defamatory and demanded an apology to be tendered no later than 12 July 2019, failure to which she would institute legal action against him.
However, Andre replied: “Sonja, I am not moved by your statement and you can go ahead. I do not know you and you do not know me at all and if you want to start a battle with me, I will make it worse and I will not stop. Will be waiting.”
According to Olivier’s heads of argument, Andre’s statement, “to me it is clear that you want me out of exco because I am black…” are defamatory and were meant to be understood by readers that Olivier is a racist. Thus, Olivier suffered damages to her dignity, she claimed.
But Andre argued that he expressed his feelings and opinion regarding his treatment from Olivier.
It was further argued that there was no evidence that showed how those who saw the email perceived or understood its content. In addition, there was no evidence indicating that Olivier suffered any sort of damage.
Having lost the suit, Olivier was ordered by court to pay the cost of the proceedings.
Sisa Namandje represented Andre while Louis du Pisani represented Olivier.