New Era (Windhoek)

27 November 2012

Namibia: Informanté to Fork Out N$50 000

Windhoek — The Deputy Commissioner of Prisons Tuhafeni Hangula will be paid N$50 000, after Judge Dave Smuts ruled in his favour, in the matter in which he took Trustco and the editor of the tabloid Informanté to court for defamation of character.

Hangula sued over a story that appeared on the front-page of the paper's first issue in December 2011. The article that was found to be defamatory arried the headline "Prison Deputy helps bank fraudster escape."

Hangula was asking compensation in the amount of N$500 000 from Trustco and the editor of Informanté, Nghidipo Nangolo, either jointly or severally. However, Judge Smuts ruled that Trustco and the editor of Informanté must pay N$50 000, as well as Hangula's legal fees.

The article continued on page three under the headline 'The great escape' and beneath it 'Hangula freed card-cloner - accomplice' and read that Hangula was bribed with N$150 000 to help Amirtalingam Pugalnanthy, the main accused in the current card-cloning case in the Windhoek High Court, escape from the country.

The article quoted a prison inmate, Anselem 'Wisdom' Chikezie, currently serving a three-year sentence for drug possession, as the go-between of Hangula and Pugalnanthy. Chikezie was promised N$20 000 commission for his part in the deal, which never materialised, prompting him to 'expose' the affair to the newspaper, the story read.

Hangula said the article has irreparably damaged his reputation in the eyes of right-thinking members of society. He further said the headline was crafted in such a way that it conveyed to the public that it had been established as a matter of fact that he was guilty.

Judge Smuts pointed out in his judgment that the reporter and the editor should have approached the inherently improbable version of a person convicted for a serious crime with more caution. "The need for objective and independent verification of key elements of his allegations thus became more imperative," said Judge Smuts.

Hangula was represented by Advocate Adolf Denk on instructions from Sisa Namandje, while Advocate Andrew Corbett represented Trustco and the editor of Informanté.

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