Namdeb gets interdict to stop LPM crime claims

The Windhoek High Court has ordered the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) to stop spreading defamatory and false information about diamond mining company Namdeb.

Judge Herman Oosthuizen on Friday ordered the LPM and members of the party not to make or distribute “untrue and defamatory statements” in which they accuse Namdeb and its management of criminality and other misdeeds.

In the interim order, Oosthuizen also directed that the LPM, the party’s leader, Bernadus Swartbooi, its deputy leader, Henny Seibeb, former Windhoek mayor Sade Gawanas, an LPM youth leader in the //Kharas region, Melody Swartbooi, and LPM member Easter Isaak should remove false and defamatory statements by the LPM and themselves about Namdeb and its management from Facebook and other social media platforms.

The order was issued after Namdeb filed an urgent application against the LPM, Bernadus Swartbooi, Seibeb, Gawanas, Melody Swartbooi and Isaak about five weeks ago.

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

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

The employee was subsequently dismissed.

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

In November last year, Bernadus Swartbooi also attacked the company in the National Assembly, referring to “Namdeb mafia management”, while 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 the LPM in November last year.

The remarks were further distributed on Facebook and other social media platforms.

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

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

Burger added that the LPM was “simply abusing this right to vent their anger against [Namdeb] and possibly to promote their political profile given that there is a national election scheduled for this year”.

In an answering affidavit filed at the court, 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 the area.

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

Swartbooi also stated that if Namdeb felt someone has defamed the company it should pursue a claim for damages, “which I am prepared to defend with oral evidence if it relates to me”.

As a political party with members in both houses of parliament and in regional councils and local authorities, the LPM has a duty to speak about any issues of national interest, which includes the well-being of Namdeb employees, Swartbooi said.

He also claimed: “The attitude of Namdeb in this regard is indicative of an institution that seeks to operate without scrutiny.”

Swartbooi denied that the LPM had a campaign to discredit and defame Namdeb.

“However, Namdeb, like any entity in which the state has a stake, is not immune from scrutiny from elected political representatives,” Swartbooi stated as well.

The interim order issued by Oosthuizen is in effect until 21 June at this stage.

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