5 February 2013

Namibia: Pilot Ordered to Pay Back Nampost Bursary

A FORMER Namibia Post employee who claimed she was under no obligation to pay back a bursary she had received from the company has lost a High Court case in which Nampost sued her for the money it spent on her studies.

Maria Hiwilepo claimed she never signed a bursary agreement with Nampost, and that she was in any event still a minor and not assisted by her guardian or parents when Nampost granted her a bursary in 2001. She also claimed she never had an agreement with Nampost that she had to work for the company for the same number of years that Nampost had paid for her studies, and that she would have to pay back the entire bursary if she failed to keep that part of the agreement.

In a judgement delivered in the High Court in Windhoek last week, Judge Nate Ndauendapo rejected Hiwilepo's version of events and found that she indeed had an agreement with Nampost that included an obligation for her to repay the bursary if she failed to work for the company for the same number of years that she had studied.

Judge Ndauendapo ordered Hiwilepo to repay an amount of N$62 072,46, plus 20 percent interest a year, calculated from the date of the judgement, to Nampost. He also ordered her to carry Nampost's legal costs in the case heard by him.

Hiwilepo studied information technology with a bursary from Nampost from 2001 to 2004. She then took up employment with the company in early 2005, but resigned in August 2006, before she completed the required four years of service with the parastatal.

Hiwilepo has in the meantime qualified as a pilot. She has also been a finalist in the 2008 Face of Africa modelling competition.

Judge Ndauendapo recounted in his judgement that according to testimony delivered before him all successful candidates for Nampost bursaries had to sign an agreement with Nampost, and the company would not have paid for their studies if they did not sign such an agreement.

The agreement between Hiwilepo and Nampost could not be found after the company sued her, but a senior Nampost employee who testified was adamant that such an agreement had been signed, and that, in line with Nampost's human resources policy, it included a requirement for Hiwilepo to work back the bursary after the completion of her studies. Another Nampost employee also insisted that she was assisted by her guardian when she signed the agreement.

Judge Ndauendapo remarked that he honestly did not believe Hiwilepo when she said it was not explained to her, when she was interviewed by a panel before the bursary was awarded to her, that in terms of the company's bursary policy she would have to complete the same number of years of employment with the company, or would have to pay back the bursary.

He stated that he accepted the version of Nampost as more probable, and that he rejected Hiwilepo's version as false.

Hiwilepo was represented by Sisa Namandje. Dirk Conradie represented Nampost.

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