Ex-NWR chief calls court loss ‘flawed judgement’

Zelna Hengari

Former Namibia Wildlife Resorts (NWR) managing director Zelna Hengari says a High Court judgement in which her N$7,5 million defamation claim against the NWR was dismissed yesterday is “flawed”.

“My view is that the judgement is flawed, and I am consulting with my lawyers on the way forward,” she said after judge Boas Usiku delivered the judgement in the Windhoek High Court yesterday.

Hengari sued the NWR, the minister of environment and tourism and the minister of public enterprises (now under the Ministry of Finance) for N$7,5 million in connection with a media statement released by the NWR board of directors in April 2019, amid allegations that she concluded a joint venture agreement between NWR and the company Sun Karros Lifestyle Safaris without the approval of the NWR board.

Usiku dismissed Hengari’s claim, and ordered that she should pay NWR’s legal costs in the matter.

He found that although parts of the media statement that Hengari complained about were defamatory, they were true and made in the public interest.

Usiku said in his judgement that the evidence before him showed Hengari concluded the joint venture agreement with Sun Karros without the knowledge, approval or authorisation of the NWR board.

The board had in principle approved a joint project to set up luxury tented camping facilities at resorts of the state-owned company, but did not give her free rein to bind the NWR to any agreement that she wanted, Usiku said.

He stated: “I am of the opinion that in the circumstances of this case, the publication of the press release was for the public benefit. [NWR], being a company wholly owned by the state, was justified in explaining the circumstance in which the cancellation of the joint venture agreement took place.”

On a claim by Hengari that her constitutional right to dignity had been infringed on, Usiku said in his opinion there is no evidence before the court that she was subjected to degrading treatment by NWR.

“I am also of the opinion that in the circumstances, there was no obligation on [NWR] to afford [Hengari] an opportunity to consider and deal with its response to the report in the media concerning the business of [NWR],” the judge also said.

Hengari was represented by lawyers Thabang Phatela and Kaijata Kangueehi.

Norman Tjombe and Loide Auwanga represented NWR, while Jabulani Ncube represented the ministers.

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