By Sisa Namandje (28 February 2017)
(1) As you were informed last week, I have received instructions from Dr Hage Geingob, the President of the Republic of Namibia (“hereinafter referred to as the president”) to consider a series of articles about and concerning him authored and published over a considerable period of time to date by a journalist at the Namibian with a view to advising the president whether or not certain of the allegations made in such articles directly through innuendo and insinuations are defamatory of him. This is due to the persistent insinuations of corruption and attempts to link any relationship he has to corruption.
(2) We are further instructed to record the President’s position in your latest questions particularly in view of the allegations you are making (some of which pre-date our client becoming the President of Namibia) and due to your unwarranted insinuation that the President may directly or indirectly be under investigation, an insinuation completely without any factual foundation.
(3) Before setting out the President’s position in relations to the questions, it is appropriate to record that he over the years has been an advocate for free and robust public debate on issues of interest and concern to our society as shown by his selfless work as the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly just before the independence of this country and his work in formulating various polices aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability in the republic service during his tenure as the Prime Minister of the Republic of Namibia. After assuming office of the State President on 21 March 2015 the President committed himself to rooting out instances of corruption and maladministration in the public service concerted and effective campaign, as evident in the Harambee Prosperity Plan, his various public pronouncements as well as other measures he introduced in that respect.
(4) The President therefore remains committed to promoting and strengthening democracy in our country through enhanced transparency, accountability and fair (and yet robust) public engagement between the government and the citizenry, with due regard to the fundamental rights under Chapter3 of the Namibian Constitution subject to reasonable limitations and restrictions on such rights as provided for thereunder.
(5) The fact that the President has been (and remains) an advocate of free press and unhindered public debate and matters of public interest and concern does not however exclude and derogate from the fact that the President as an individual and in his capacity as the President of the republic of Namibia also enjoys constitutional protection of his inviolable dignity from baseless defamatory allegations in most cases are said to have been made by anonymous sources (whose motivates are usually not subjected to proper scrutiny and investigation by journalists, including that of the Namibian newspaper before publication) through the media.
(6) In that context and under such circumstances the President, after carefully pondering over a series of gratuitous and hurtful defamatory statements about and concerning him over the years to date, mostly through your newspaper, has decided to subject such allegations (in a number of articles authored and published by your newspaper) to a comprehensive legal review and assessment by us in order to advise him whether or not he has been wrongfully defamed, and if yes, what remedies he has.
(7) While the President was prepared to respond to your earlier set of “Omani questions” and to the latest ones, we have advised him against responding to your questions until we have furnished him with a comprehensive legal opinion on whether or not various afore stated article had been defamatory of him. The President will further in due course receive our opinion whether or not it is necessary and in the public interest for him to respond to your latest mischief laden question.
(8) In deciding to advise the President not to respond to your questions we have inter alia considered the fact as he is not privy to any investigation of a criminal nature directly or indirectly against him before or after becoming the President, it would be inappropriate, in our view, for the President to publicly comment on your allegations when your questions appear to suggest that certain individuals may be facing (a fact not known by the President) criminal investigation.
(9) Additionally, our advice to the President not to entertain your questions was further influenced by the fact that the questions- some of which pertains to matters that occurred many years ago (and on which matters you have already reported ) – largely related matters that have nothing to do with the presidency and matters that, with respected, are not of public interest as demonstrated by your questions, not only whether or not the President is a friend to certain individuals but also your curious questions that if the President’s friendship with such individuals has ended what could have been the reason for ending such friendship. It is apparent to the President in this respect that your newspaper appears to have to have decided to subject him an unfair public audit on matters that occurred in the past and which matters are not of substance or public importance.
(10) Thus, without derogating from the aforesaid, the President’s position is that he denies, in the strongest possible terms, that he was or is a subject of police investigation. The President further denies the additional sling in your questions that suggest that certain of his conducts or omissions in the past may have warranted criminal investigation. The President’s right to assert his rights in any appropriate forum in respect of such unwarranted insinuations are hereby fully reserved.
(11) The President assures you that he will continue engaging the public on matters of public interest and concern as he has always done, inter alia through the media, but he would expected the press in general and your newspaper in particular to promote and uphold honest, fair and objective reporting and interpretation of information before publication. Such collection and publication of information by the press should however at all times be free of negligent or deliberate distortion of news which distortion in most cases gravely harm individuals’ dignity and good name:
(12) The President is saddened by your unjustified and continuous usage of anonymous sources of unverified information even when such information could be obtained using traditional open methods. In this respect, the President has in the past been made to answer questions on the basis of unnamed sources not withstanding an always present risk that such unnamed sources could ( as it appears to have been the case) be serving a particular political agenda. We therefore implore you to take extraordinary care in obtaining and reporting on information that is likely to be defamatory of our client good name. The biased distortion in your reporting on matters pertaining to and concerning the President has, with respect, been unacceptably of monumental proportions.
(13) Kindly therefore take notice that, given the aforesaid, the President will await our comprehensive legal assessment of a number of articles you have authored and published and legal advice on his remedies in that respect. The President shall further await our advice whether or not he should at all, in future, respond to your concerned questions.
We hope that you find the above in order.
Sisa Namandje & Co. Inc
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