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Home / Hengari’s N$7.5 million lawsuit rumbles on

Hengari’s N$7.5 million lawsuit rumbles on

2022-03-24  Maria Amakali

Hengari’s N$7.5 million lawsuit rumbles on

Namibia Wildlife Resorts and the tourism and public enterprises ministers have asked the court to be absolved from the N$7.5 million defamation suit filed against them by former NWR managing director, Zelna Hengari. 

She filed a civil suit against her former employer, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta and public enterprises minister Leon Jooste, claiming N$7.5 million for reputational damage. 

The claim arises from a press statement issued by the NWR board on 15 April 2018, which was published by local news outlets. 

NWR issued the media statement in response to an article that appeared in a daily newspaper which focused on a joint partnership agreement between NWR and Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris (Pty) Ltd.

The 30-year agreement was signed by NWR on 11 June 2018, and by Sun Karros in May 2018.

According to reports in this publication, Sun Karros is said to have constructed 20 glamorous tents, a restaurant, a small pool and 10 campsites at NWR’s Sesriem campsite to the tune of N$43 million.

In court papers, Shifeta has stuck to his guns, saying the agreement is invalid as it did not follow the provisions of the Public Procurement Act and the State Finance Act.

He said NWR’s board was supposed to present the agreement to him for endorsement – which never took place. 

According to NWR, they cannot be held liable because NWR is a public entity and the statement was issued in the public’s interest. 

NWR agrees with Shifeta that the said agreement is illegal. Furthermore, the agreement was signed without the board’s approval.

“The first defendant (NWR) pleads that the contents of the press statement are true or substantially true, and that the publication thereof was in the public interest and for the public benefit,” NWR’s pleadings read. NWR claims to have taken the necessary and reasonable steps to verify the accuracy of the information provided to it, including from Hengari, and the publication of the statement was thus fair and reasonable.

Therefore, NWR has since refused to pay damages. 

In April 2021, Hengari lost in the High Court when she challenged the NWR board’s decision not to renew her contract. 

On 15 January 2019, the NWR board took the decision not to renew her contract. 

Before she was served with a notice that her employment would not be renewed, Hengari was placed on suspension after allegations that she contracted the company to a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement with Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris without the necessary approval. 

She was sent home as a precaution, as they feared she may tamper with evidence and witnesses necessary for the investigation against her.

The case has been postponed to 31 March for the court to hear the application for absolution. Judge Boas Usiku is presiding.

2022-03-24  Maria Amakali

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