Ex-minister demands N$500 000 over WhatsApp messages

Bernard Haufiku

Dr Bernard Haufiku, a former minister of health and social services, wants businessman Martin Shipanga to pay him N$500 000 for writing a WhatsApp message accusing the doctor of using his relatives to steal public money.

The details of the defamation case are contained in documents in the Windhoek High Court, showing that Haufiku, who served as health minister from 2015 to 2018, is demanding N$500 000 from Shipanga for “damaging his dignity and reputation”.

Haufiku says Shipanga’s statements are wrongful and defamatory, and were understood by those who read them as that he is a thief, selfish and that he considers his own interests above those of the Namibian people.

“The said post stated and alleged that Haufiku, without any evidence in support of the allegation, ‘used his relatives to steal government money’ only for them to report Haufiku to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC).

“Haufiku places it on record that he never stole any government money or used his relatives to steal government money, neither has he ever been reported to the ACC for stealing government money.

“This is true because not a single charge of theft or any other crime has been levelled against him, nor is there any previous or ongoing ACC investigation against him,” the former minister’s particulars of claim reads.

Haufiku says the communication on social media originated from a WhatsApp group called ‘Rundu Project’, of which both Haufiku and Shipanga are members.

The message was allegedly sent on 23 June last year.

“The false and defamatory statements contain no truth whatsoever and undoubtedly were made with the sole intention to achieve maximum damage to Haufiku’s good name, reputation, and human dignity, and to lower his esteem in the eyes of the right-thinking members of the WhatsApp group and any person who acquired knowledge of the false statements,” court documents read.

Namibia’s defamation law is based on the actio iniuriarum principle of Roman law.

To succeed in a defamation action, a person who brings the case against another in court must establish that the accused published a defamatory statement concerning them.

Haufiku says WhatsApp is broadly and effortlessly accessible to ordinary readers, and the attack on his dignity and reputation has caused him trauma.

“Furthermore, this unjustified attack on Haufiku’s dignity and reputation has caused him unbearable psychological trauma, distress, stigma, pain and suffering, disgrace and dishonour.

“The sole reason for making the false and defamatory statements was to tarnish the dignity and good name of Haufiku,” the documents read.

Haufiku wants Shipanga to withdraw the statements and apologise on the same WhatsApp group he made them.

Shipanga is the former chief executive of Nedbank and the owner of Ondangwa-based radio station Shipi FM.

He did not respond to questions sent to him by The Namibian this week.

Haufiku is represented by Francois Bangamwabo from FB Law Chambers, while Karin Klazen from Ellis Shilengudwa Incorporated represents Shipanga.

Haufiku did not comment on the case this week.

The case was yesterday postponed to 23 March for mediation.

Lawyer Kaijata Kangueehi has been appointed as mediator.

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