The defamation case in which labour minister Utoni Nujoma is suing a local newspaper for N$150 000 has been referred for mediation.
High Court Judge Shafimana Ueitele referred the matter for mediation to give an opportunity to the parties to try and reach a settlement in the case with the assistance of a mediator.
The case has since been postponed to 26 October. In the suit, Nujoma is claiming the weekly Windhoek Observer newspaper,
which has turned exclusively online, housed under Paragon Investment Holding, wrote and published an article, titled ‘Farmer accuses Nujoma of extortion’, which is defamatory to him.
He says the part in the article that states: “Nujoma made two unsuccessful attempts to extort N$1.5 million on the first occasion and N$400 000 during the second attempt”, and the whole article itself was intended to be understood by the readers that he is “a corrupt person, a person of questionable morals, untrustworthy and disgraceful”.
He claims his reputation has suffered as a result of the said article and now claims damages in the amount of N$150 000.
According to the article, Nujoma, who was the minister of land reform at the time, allegedly attempted to extort N$1.5 million from Gerson Ndjai Zaire, a farmer, in return for granting of a certificate of waiver Zaire had applied for.
Zaire allegedly needed the waiver to enable him to subdivide Farm Rustig 416 in the Khomas region and sell portions of it to settle his debts.
Zaire allegedly spoke to the newspaper exclusively and informed them Nujoma’s business partner Sedekia Axab Gowaseb was an accessory to the attempted extortion.
He indicated Gowaseb approached him in 2017, saying Nujoma is demanding N$1.5 million for the waiver.
In 2018, Nujoma allegedly sent four unnamed men to demand N$400 000 from him. The article states Nujoma was given a right of reply but refused to comment.
Gowaseb, on the other hand, told the newspaper that Zaire’s claims were far from the truth.
Paragon Investment Holding and the paper’s editor Kuvee Kangueehi have given notice that they intend to oppose Nujoma’s legal action against the publication.
Defamation has become a new trend, with entities suing media houses and individuals for publishing rumours and unsubstantiated claims. Recently, First Lady Monica Geingos sued Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) member and teacher Abed ‘Bishop’ Hishoono for claiming she has an interest in a local airline. Hishoono has since said he regrets publishing a video containing falsehoods against Geingos. Another IPC member Imms Nashinge was ordered to pay socialite Beata ‘Betty Davids’ Siteketa N$60 000 and apologise for defamatory remarks he made about her in a WhatsApp group discussion.
She demanded N$400 000, and an unconditional retraction and apology from Nashinge, the IPC spokesperson.
IPC also lodged a suit over WhatsApp messages NamRights director Phil Ya Nangoloh posted, suggesting an “activist” of the party posted an audio message in which he says he wishes President Hage Geingob was dead.
According to a letter sent to Ya Nangoloh by an IPC legal representative, the party said it is aggrieved by messages Ya Nangoloh authored that say the original post was from a member of the party. According to them, the author of the original post, Jonas Immanuel Muukeshe is not a member or an “activist” of the party – and his name appears nowhere on their database. The IPC demanded Ya Nangoloh retracts the statements, publish an unreserved apology and unequivocally withdraw “all the aspects of your messages, which attempt to put the IPC within the domain of the said audio messages as per your false defamatory innuendos, insinuations, suggestions and statements”.
Recently, the Supreme Court narrowly ruled in favour of The Namibian after a Windhoek-based lawyer won against the daily and its editor in a defamation case in the High Court two years ago.
The Supreme Court set aside the High Court’s order, replacing it with an order that lawyer Vincent du Toit’s legal action against editor Tangeni Amupadhi and The Free Press of Namibia is dismissed with costs. High Court Judge Herman Oosthuizen said the editorial contained contextually wrong facts and constituted a defamatory opinion about Du Toit.
Du Toit sued Amupadhi and the newspaper over an editorial about a house transaction involving him, his former domestic worker, a property donation and an eviction.