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Hengari’s NWR defamation hearing slated for 2023

2022-09-07  Maria Amakali

Hengari’s NWR defamation hearing slated for 2023

The High Court has scheduled to hear the side of Namibia Wildlife Resorts in a N$7.5 million defamation suit against it, filed by its former managing director Zelna Hengari next year.

Judge Dinnah Usiku said the court has availed days from 6 to 10 February 2023 to hear the matter for NWR to present their case in defence of Hengari’s claims. 

Hengari’s case will proceed after the High Court dismissed NWR’s absolution application, filed at the end of her case.

The court said Hengari has established a prima facie case of defamation against her former employer. 

Furthermore, based on the evidence presented, a reasonable reader of the said press releases would deduce that Hengari “was guilty of deliberate misrepresentation of facts and had concluded an agreement with a third party without the knowledge and authority of her employer and therefore was dishonest or conducted herself in an unethical or unprofessional manner”.

In 2020, Hengari filed a civil suit against her former employer, environment minister Pohamba Shifeta and then 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 that 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.

Hengari allegedly made a misrepresentation to the board that the previous board had approved the agreement. 

Furthermore, she signed the agreement without the board’s approval, and the provisions of the Public Procurement Act and the State Finance Act were not followed.

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.

- mamakali@nepc.com.nax


2022-09-07  Maria Amakali

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