Judgment reserved in defamation case
Judge Peter Unengu reserved judgment in the matter after the legal teams of the plaintiffs and the defendants yesterday in the Windhoek High Court closed their arguments.
Katiti has amended his claim from N$300 000 to N$150 000 against the defendants that includes Free Press of Namibia, which is the company that owns The Namibian, the newspaper’s former editor, Gwen Lister and Swakopmund-based journalist Adam Hartman.
Katiti also wants his former business partner and estate agent, Regina Cynthia Kotchanova to pay N$50 000 in damages.
He has also asked the court to order the defendants to publish an unconditional apology for the injury they caused him over a story that claimed he had been charged with theft and was guilty of dishonest conduct.
The former Walvis Bay CEO alleges the newspaper had published a defamatory article and by way of an electronic version on December 21, 2007, under the headline “Katiti charged with theft”.
Kotchanova, who appeared in person yesterday, in her submissions, maintained she, on instructions of her husband, laid a charge of theft against the plaintiff on December 18, 2007. The reason was that he did not pay the full purchase price for the franchise rights but he still removed their furniture and fittings without their permission. She and her husband started Remax Real Estate Centre in 2001.
She further added that she does not decide the headline of a newspaper story nor is she privy thereto.
Kotchanova confirmed that a contract existed between her husband and Katiti for the sale of franchise rights of Remax to Beauhomes Real Estate for N$1,125 million. The plaintiff allegedly paid only N$350 000 of the agreed amount.
The defendant said she only confirmed the information about the charge to Hartman as he already had the contents as the story was published by Republikein newspaper.
“I did not approach Hartman with the story, he approached me,” she said but maintained that the statement about the opening of the case by her was both true and correct and can’t be defamatory. She said her confirmation of the information was not wrong or unlawful.
Phillip Barnard, the plaintiff’s lawyer, said the publishing and reading of the article created the impression of theft charge against Katiti and him not paying.
He said the credibility of the plaintiff when he gave evidence is not relevant. According to him the only thing is the determination of hurt feelings he suffered.
He further said it’s a question of law whether the passage is defamatory and wanted to know how a Court will determine whether the meaning is defamatory. He is of the opinion that the slur and suggestion in the article must be taken into account.
The lawyer argued the content of the article does not properly explain the headline, that is, “Katiti charged with theft”. Apparently if one looks at it without the heading, there are allegedly two things, that is, somebody (former owner of Remax Real Estate) suspects Katiti of theft and that Kotchanova confirmed the issue to Hartman. “It’s defamatory,” he maintained.
He said his client’s previous wrong doings that were raised during his cross-examination are irrelevant.