Lawyer advises LPM to obey Namdeb court interdict

Henry Shimutwikeni

The Landless People’s Movement (LPM) has been advised by its lawyer, Henry Shimutwikeni, to abide by the interdict in which the High Court on Friday ordered party not to make and distribute defamatory statements about diamond mining company Namdeb.

High Court judge Herman Oosthuizen on Friday ordered LPM and party members to not make or distribute “untrue and defamatory statements” in which they accuse Namdeb and its management of criminality and other misdeeds, and to remove such statements from Facebook and other social media platforms.

“At this moment, we have advised the party to abide by the instructions given by the interim order while we wait for what happens later, since this case is postponed to 21 June,” Shimutwikeni said yesterday.

LPM national spokesperson Lifalaza Simaata told The Namibian that the party respects the court’s order.

“We believe it is imperative that in our approach we ensure there is evidence to back our claims,” said Simaata.

He said his party believes it is important to speak out on injustices, but in a manner that is within the law.

The interdict was issued after Namdeb filed an urgent application against LPM leader Bernadus Swartbooi deputy leader Henny Seibeb, former Windhoek mayor Sade Gawanas, LPM //Kharas youth leader Melody Swartbooi, and LPM member Easter Isaak nearly six weeks ago.

In an affidavit filed at the court, Namdeb chief executive Riaan Burger alleged LPM “has initiated a campaign to discredit and defame [Namdeb], its senior management and certain employees”.

Burger said that was after a Namdeb employee, who is both on LPM and an Oranjemund Town Council member, faced disciplinary charges initiated by the company.

Bernadus Swartbooi

The employee was subsequently dismissed.

According to Burger, the Oranjemund branch of LPM accused the company of “harassment, bullying, structural violence, lawlessness” and more.

In November last year, Swartbooi attacked the company in the National Assembly, referring to “Namdeb mafia management”, while also claiming there was “a mafia den of thieves running Namdeb”, Burger informed the court.

More accusations against Namdeb and its management were made at a press conference by LPM in November last year.
The remarks were further distributed on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Burger said in his affidavit the remarks of LPM and its members about Namdeb constituted abuse, which he said must be distinguished from legitimate constitutionally protected free speech.

He alleged that LPM and its leadership overstepped the boundaries of any constitutional right to freedom of speech.

In answering the affidavit, Bernadus Swartbooi said he was informed by LPM leaders at Oranjemund that 12 Namdeb employees violated Namibia’s Diamond Act by entering a restricted mining area in August last year, without having the required permits to enter.

Swartbooi alleged the legal action Namdeb took against LPM was an attempt to conceal that incident, during which an illegality may have been committed, and was aimed at preventing anyone from speaking about it.

He also said if Namdeb felt someone has defamed the company, it should pursue a claim for damages, which he is prepared to defend with oral evidence, should it relate to him.

Political analyst Ben Mulongeni says political parties should employ a process of fact checking and thorough research before confronting institutions to avoid spreading misinformation.

“This is a big embarrassment to the party and its members. We expect accountability from politicians all the time,” he says.

Mulongeni says this is a dangerous political year and the country might witness a lot of confrontations among politicians to score political points.

“Any leader that wants to lead this country needs to portray professionalism, integrity and credibility, just like what they expect from the government. Things of this kind will cost you trust,” he says.

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