Negotiations in the defamation matter between expelled Independent Patriots for Change member Ciske Smith-Howard and party member Sifried Junios //Garoëb have reached a deadlock.
The duo was referred for mediation by the High Court in the hope that they could resolve and settle the matter out of court with the assistance of a mediator.
However, Judge Kobus Miller was informed yesterday that the mediation, held on 17 August, had failed. Thus, the matter will now proceed for a hearing for the court to give a verdict.
//Garoëb has indicated that he will testify in person.
He is suing Smith-Howard, former chairperson of the Erongo Regional Council, for N$350 000 for remarks she made in a televised interview in October 2021, which he claims are defamatory as they are untrue. He is also seeking a retraction and a public apology.
In his plea, //Garoëb said Smith-Howard’s statements have caused harm to his political career and personal life. Furthermore, different politicians have resultantly refused to work with him.
“I am viewed as a criminal. I cannot freely express myself on political activities as I am regarded as a thief and fraudster. I have stopped expressing myself politically on social platforms as I am scared to be attacked,” he stated.
The defamatory remarks have also allegedly affected his marriage, external relationships and business opportunities. //Garoëb said the remarks have likewise caused his 10-year-old child to be bullied at school.
He added that he is not a criminal, nor has he ever been found guilty of any charges.
In her plea, Smith-Howard said her remarks were based on the charges of bribery, fraud and theft of public property and monies //Garoëb was facing at the time he was employed at the Henties Bay municipality as an assistant credit controller.
She said //Garoëb resigned before he could be cleared of the allegations.
Thus, “the statement is and constitutes political utterances, which in an open and democratic society with entrenched constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression in political debate and political activity, cannot be regarded as defamatory of the plaintiff (//Garoëb),” reasoned Smith-Howard.
On Namibian Sun’s Evening Review, Smith-Howard, without mentioning //Garoëb’s name, said: “…The IPC councillor in Henties Bay… who had seemingly stolen from his council… while he was an employee of the municipality, and they then relieved him of his duties in 2018 after investigations found that he was guilty… I strongly feel that we cannot make a thief the head of the institution from which he stole”.
According to her, the remarks do not give an impression that //Garoëb was a convicted criminal or dismissed by the Henties Bay municipal council.
In the suit, //Garoëb is being represented by Henry Shimutwikeni, while Tshuka Luvindao is arguing for Smith-Howard.