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Minister allowed to appeal in insurance industry court battle

Minister allowed to appeal in insurance industry court battle

Niël Terblanché
THE Minister of Finance, Calle Schlettwein succeeded in his litigation in the Supreme Court when a judgement was given that he and the Namibia National Reinsurance Corporation will be allowed to go ahead with an appeal against an earlier judgement handed down in the in the High Court.
During February this year the applicants formally requested the registrar of the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing to set aside Supreme Court Justice Theo Frank’s recent decision to refuse a petition in which the finance minister and NamibRe were asking to be allowed to appeal against a judgement handed down by judge Thomas Masuku in the Windhoek High Court during September last year.
Minister Schlettwein approached the Supreme Court to have a decision that was made by Justice Frank to be set aside and declared as a nullity on the ground that a conflict of interests exist because of the Judge’s involvement with the insurance industry.
On Tuesday Supreme Court ruled that the minister and Namib¬Re will be allowed to appeal against a judgement that High Court judge Thomas Masuku delivered in September last year.

After being granted permission to appeal against the Mr. Schlettwein, said in an official statement that the unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Namibia in the continuing legal controversy between some insurance companies and the Government of Namibia is welcomed. He said that it was an important step in strengthening reinsurance in Namibia and ending the current outflows of reinsurance premiums from the domestic economy.
The Supreme Court has upheld, with costs, the Government’s application to set aside on grounds of a reasonable perception of bias, a ruling made by an acting member of the Supreme Court and granted, with costs, leave to appeal which had been refused.
Mr Schlettwein stated in the press statement, that Acting Justice Theo Frank, the Supreme Court held, had ties to the insurance industry which were such that he should not have sat in the matter. These ties include arguing for insurers an unsuccessful constitutional challenge resurrected in the current litigation and his current chairmanship of the Nedlife holding company of one of the litigants in the main proceedings.
The Supreme Court, having reach these conclusions, were satisfied that the test for recusal had been met. Acting Justice Frank was required to disclose his interests to the parties but had not done so. Given these conclusions, the Court held, it was unnecessary to consider further aspects raised, including that as a director and now chairman of companies in the industry, Acting Justice Frank was still receiving substantial emoluments, while sitting in the matter, and that he had also served for years on the Trustco Board.
In the second part of the ruling, the Supreme Court, reversed Acting Justice Frank’s dismissal of Government’s application for leave to appeal a ruling last year by Justice Masuku in the High Court. In the judgment by the Deputy Chief Justice, Justice Damaseb, in which Justice Hoff and Justice Nkabinde concurred, the Court described the Government’s prospects of success as “more than reasonable.”
The appeal will be heard as soon as it can be enrolled at the High Court.

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