WINDHOEK - The defamation case against The Free Press of Namibia, the company that owns The Namibian, was postponed by Acting Judge Petrus Unengu to 15 August 2012 for heads of arguments yesterday.
Other respondents in the defamation case are the newspaper’s then editor, Gwen Lister, coastal reporter Adam Hartman and estate agent Regina Kotchanova.
Kotchanova, who laid the charge against Augustinus Katiti, former CEO of the Walvis Bay Municipality, yesterday took the stand and spelled out the events that led to her laying a charge and the eventual writing of the story which became a bone of contention for Katiti, who sued the involved parties for N$300 000.00 for defamation.
Kotchanova said Katiti allegedly breached a contract they had signed early in 2007 in which the Remax franchise was sold to him and his business, Beauhomes Real Estate.
Kotchanova told Acting Judge Petrus Unengu that it was agreed that Katiti would buy and take over the business with all the equipment and furniture as from 01 June 2007, and that he would pay the last installment of N$775 000 in September of that year.
She said Katiti, however, did not pay the money, claiming that she still owed the Receiver of Revenue money. According to Kotchanova, she instituted civil proceedings against Katiti after he failed to pay the last installment, but that they had reached a settlement agreement in the mean-time, which she accepted.
Kotchanova further stated that Katiti sold all of the office equipment and furniture, valued to about N$100 000, without informing her.
She testified that she then went to the police station and laid a charge of theft against Katiti on 18 December 2012.
She further claimed that, as it took a long time for the charge to be investigated, she went to the Commissioner’s office to enquire and on 13 July 2010 was informed that the Prosecutor- General had decided not to prosecute because of a lack of evidence.
On August 06 of 2009 she received summons that Katiti is suing her for defamation of character for an article that appeared in The Namibian of December 21 2007.
According to Kotchanova, Hartman was the one who contacted her after the story first broke in the Republikein.
She was adamant that she never spoke to any reporter of the Republikein and did not know how they heard about it, she told Judge Unengu.
When Hartman testified on Wednesday, he agreed that Kotchanova had nothing to do with the story that is the root cause of the libel claim.
In answers to questions put to him by Kotchanova, whether she went to him with the story, he replied negatively. He replied positively to the question whether he had had all the facts already. Hartman further denied that she had anything to do with the content of the story.
Hartman also replied to a question by Kotchanova and said that she could have done nothing to stop the publication of the story.
Hartman’s evidence in chief basically just re-affirmed or emphasised what founding editor of the Namibian Newspaper, Gwen Lister, testified to on Tuesday this week. On Wednesday, Hartman said that he is not and never was a sensationalist journalist and that he always strives to write unbiased and well-researched articles.
He vehemently denied that he has a grudge against Katiti, calling him an acquaintance that he only met in passing. Hartman also denied that there was a witch-hunt against Katiti who instigated the defamation claim against the newspaper.
Hartman defended his article, calling it fair and responsible, saying Katiti is a well-known figure and that the public has a right to know about people in the spotlight.
The claim stems from an article published in the newspaper’s last edition of 2007 with the heading ‘Katiti charged with theft’.
The front-page article, published on December 21 2007, written by Hartman, included allegations by Regina Kotchanova, a representative of Remax Properties, a business bought by Katiti in 2006.
Katiti now claims that the article was “wrongful, malicious and defamatory” in that the wording “intended and was understood by the readers of the newspaper that he [Katiti] is dishonest” implying that he is a criminal; that he illegally sold office equipment and furniture not belonging to him for personal gain and that he purchased a business but breached the agreement with the seller and as such is a dishonest person.
Kotchanova is representing herself, while Andrew Corbett represents The Namibian, Lister and Hartman, on instructions from Michael Böttger from the law firm LorentzAngula Inc. and Katiti is represented by Phillip Barnard on instructions from Alwyn Harmse from the law firm Fisher, Quarmby and Pfeifer.