HIGH Court Judge Annel Silungwe drastically slashed the amount demanded by Kenyan nationals and former lecturers, Dr Zecharia Bolo and his wife Lucy Bolo, in their defamation lawsuit against Informanté newspaper.
This followed revelations that the couple based their claims for damages on gross miscalculations.
The Bolos and Trustco Group International, the publishers of Informanté, squared off in the High Court this week over four articles published in the newspaper in 2006.
The articles exposed irregularities at the Institute of Management Studies, where the couple are major shareholders.
At the centre of the trial was the author of the stories, Helvy Tueumuna, who defended her stories saying that they were factually correct and published within the realm of public interest.
Bolo and his wife are suing Trustco Group International, the Editor-in-Chief of Informanté Max Hamata and journalist Helvy Tueumuna to the tune of N$1.1 million.
A former lecturer at the University of Namibia (Unam) until his unceremonious resignation in 2006, Bolo claimed N$650,000, while his wife, a former lecturer at the Polytechnic of Namibia claimed N$450,000.
The discovery that the two found employment after leaving Unam and the Polytechnic respectively led to the reduction of both claims for damages. Informanté’s defence lawyers, Engling Stritter & Partners, pointed out that Bolo inflated his claim by basing it on taxable income as he made his calculations on gross salary rather than his net salary.
Bolo quoted his monthly income as N$29,000, while his monthly income after tax was N$17,000.
The wife’s claim was slashed on the basis that she earned N$36,000 as a teacher at a primary school after she left the Polytechnic, making it impossible for her to claim loss of income.
Bolo and his wife claimed that in four stories written by Helvy Tueumuna, now employed by the Namibian Sun, Informanté portrayed them as ‘untrustworthy and morally questionable persons’.
“The said words in the context of the articles are wrongful and defamatory of plaintiffs, alternatively false and defamatory…,” Bolos’ claim states.
“(Informanté’s stories) were intended to and were understood by readers of the newspaper…that plaintiffs are corrupt and have no regard for the laws in Namibia, are criminals, alternatively, potential criminals.”
The charges arose from Informanté’s stories headlined “Senior Unam lecturer owns rival institution” and “Lecturers in hot water”, which exposed irregularities at IMS at a time when a host of fly-by-night colleges owned by Kenyan nationals were hoodwinking students.
Bolo and his wife claim that, as Kenyan nationals the stories tarred them with the same brush as the owners of Anvil College and Bema College, both exposed as bogus colleges.
Three weeks after the publication of the first story, Bolo resigned from Unam facing a disciplinary hearing called to question his involvement in a rival tertiary institution in violation of the university’s Code of Conduct.
Bolo, a doctor of mathematics, professed ignorance of Unam’s code of conduct, saying his involvement in IMS did not present any conflict of interest.
The plaintiffs however, did not challenge the fact that the institution was not registered with the Namibia Qualifications Authority, and that they employed undocumented immigrants as lecturers.
Muluti & Ipumbu Attorneys are representing Bolo and his wife, who is suing for defamation of her character by association to her husband.
The court adjourned the trial to November 3, with the expectation that it will continue for a further eight days.