16 May 2019

Namibia: Judge Orders Removal of Online Defamation

A WINDHOEK-BASED businessman must remove all defamatory material about former Namibia University of Science and Technology vice chancellor Tjama Tjivikua and his wife that he posted on social media sites on the internet, a judge has ordered in the High Court.

In an interdict issued on Tuesday, judge Harald Geier prohibited Tommy Tjaronda "from continuing to publish defamatory, unfounded and untruthful statements or allegations" about Tjivikua and his wife, Neavera Tjivikua, on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The judge also ordered Tjaronda to immediately remove all defamatory material related to the Tjivikua couple from his social media platforms. The order against Tjaronda will be in force until a defamation claim that the Tjivikuas filed against him in February this year - they are suing Tjaronda for a combined sum of N$400 000 - has been concluded, the judge also ordered.

The placing of false and damaging claims about someone on the internet would be equally defamatory as publishing such claims in print, legal practitioner Norman Tjombe indicated on enquiry from The Namibian yesterday.

He added that if someone failed to comply with an interdict issued by a court restraining them from publishing defamatory material, the person could be held in contempt of court, and be required to explain in court why an interdict was not adhered to.

In an affidavit filed at the court, Tjama Tjivikua claims that when a proposed property development project in which he and Tjaronda were involved during the period from 2015 to 2017 did not go according to plan, Tjaronda made repeated demands to be paid a commission for having secured an initial financier for the project.

With the project not having materialised as planned, though, he informed Tjaronda that he would have to wait at least until the first phase of the project had been started, Tjivikua said.

He stated that Tjaronda continued to make demands for payment, and towards the middle of 2017, telephone calls from Tjaronda to him "intensified, followed by episode of complete lunacy and rudeness" (sic).

According to Tjivikua, Tjaronda repeatedly intimidated and threatened him and tried to extort money out of him, and when his attempts proved futile, he resorted to social media, where he described Tjivikua and Neavera Tjivikua as "crooks" who do unacceptable things and bully people "with their perceived political power".

Tjaronda's publication of statements on his Facebook and Twitter accounts was slanderous and defamatory of him and his wife, Tjivikua also claims in his affidavit.

In an answering affidavit filed at the court, Tjaronda denied that statements he had made about the Tjivikuas were untruthful or baseless or defamatory, and argued that the statements were fair comment.

He also stated that he secured investors for a property development project the Tjivikuas were planning in Windhoek, but claimed that after the investors had provided N$19,5 million to finance the purchase of a piece of land in the city, Tjama Tjivikua began to avoid him when he wanted to discuss the payment of his fee for having secured financing for the project.

Tjaronda also denied that he intimidated, threatened or attempted to extort money from Tjivikua, or behaved rudely towards him.

Tjaronda further argued that as vice chancellor of Nust, Tjivikua was a public official, and his actions and conduct were subject to public scrutiny.

He denied that he defamed the Tjivikuas, and said he initially respected Tjivikua and thought he was a man of his word - but later found out the Tjivikuas turned out not to be people on whose word one could rely.

The Tjivikuas were represented by Elize Angula in the case heard by judge Geier. Tjaronda was represented by Sisa Namandje.

* With additional reporting from Yokany Oliveira.

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