18 May 2017

Namibia: Strauss Drops N$105m Lawsuit

ALMOST six months after coastal developer Dudley David Strauss launched a N$100 million lawsuit against urban development minister Sophia Shaningwa and the Walvis Bay municipality over a land deal which had gone sour, he has dropped the case.

Not only that, it appears that Strauss antics have irked Walvis Bay authorities to such an extent that criminal charges may follow him.

This comes as local officials have realised that a civil case against Strauss might not recoup funds spent by the town to counter Strauss' legal action, as he may not have enough money and assets in the event of a successful civil action against him.

Despite dropping the lawsuit, Strauss still insists that he met his obligations in a collapsed property deal, which he blames on the municipality's alleged failure to honour an agreement to provide him "with the necessary support" to enable him to erect, amongst others, a truck port, which led to him allegedly suffering financial losses running into tens of millions of dollars.

This alleged breach, he maintained, was followed by the municipality unlawfully and irregularly closing the file relating to the sales agreement on 25 November 2013.

Yesterday, Walvis Bay municipal spokesperson Kevin Adams welcomed the latest development in the protracted saga. "The council is satisfied that the matter has been withdrawn. We have always known that there was no substance to the plaintiff's claim in the first place."

Concerning possible criminal or civil action against Strauss, Adams said that would probably be decided at the next council meeting. "I cannot say until the council has made a decision in this regard."

Strauss had claimed that when the land deal had collapsed, he suffered losses amounting to N$47 million over "the failure to develop the truck project". This amount apparently included surveying and engineering fees, environmental impact assessment costs, valuations, and rates and taxes.

What allegedly further piled up Strauss' financial woes was his claim to have suffered damages of N$39 million when the same plots he had his eyes on were sold to a Zambezi-based company and to another Walvis Bay businessman.

The third portion of Strauss' claim involved the delay in approving the building plans, which led to him having to sell the one plot which he already owned in order to pay out shareholders who came to his rescue in his hour of need. This loss, he alleged, amounted to more than N$19 million.

Strauss earlier said Shaningwa's ministry was well aware that he had objected to the sale of the land to other parties. Despite directing seven letters to her and apparently meeting her in person no less than four times, she did nothing to salvage the situation, he claimed. Therefore, he drew her into the lawsuit. In court papers, Strauss alleged that in 2009, he approached the Walvis Bay municipality "with a proposal for the development of a truck port" at the harbour town. In what seemed to have been an approval of Strauss' truck port proposal, the municipality issued a letter in support of a loan for this purpose to Bank Windhoek at the time. However, the development never went ahead.

Various attempts to obtain comment from Strauss this week proved futile.

Shaningwa's defence from the start has been that she was not responsible for what happened, and that Strauss should have sought recourse from those who were in power at the time. "I am not a culprit. What did I do?" she asked.

Strauss was represented by Petrus Shapupala Elago of Tjombe-Elago Inc, while Richard Metcalfe from Metcalfe Attorneys acted on behalf of Shaningwa and the Walvis Bay Municipality.

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