In a recent court ruling, Judge Collins Parker of the Windhoek High Court brought closure to a longstanding legal battle involving retired Bishop Kleopas Dumeni and Empire Fishing Company Pty (Ltd) over the ownership and sale of a N$15 million farm.
Judge Parker’s last week’s judgment absolved Dumeni of any contractual breach and dismissed Empire Fishing’s claims. He stated that the company failed to provide sufficient evidence to establish the existence of the alleged contract they relied upon.
Notably, the will did not mention Empire Fishing as a contracting party, leading Parker to conclude that a valid and enforceable contract had not been established.
The case dates back to an agreement made in 2000, which saw the fishing company claiming rights to the Nassau farm in the Otjozondjupa region.
“Nowhere in the will does the name of the plaintiff appear. The last will cannot valid and enforceable contract for the following reasons: first, a contract is a composite and coherent juristic act concluded between two or more persons intending to create legal obligations.
One cannot contract with oneself. Second, the oral part of the contract was, on the evidence, settled in October 2000. Iileka did not testify that it was in their contemplation that 15 years from 2000 the first defendant would settle a will that would form part of the alleged oral contract,” said Parker
The dispute primarily centered around a 3 870 hectare farm Nassau, purchased for N$1.08 million in 2000, now valued at approximately N$15 million.
Empire Fishing alleged that a binding oral and written agreement was forged with Dumeni, wherein he would serve as the farm’s nominal owner while the company held beneficial ownership.
They further claimed that the arrangement was reinforced by Dumeni in June 2003 will.
Empire Fishing contended that according to the agreement, Dumeni was to sign the purchase agreement for the farm, seek financing from the Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank), and act as farm manager.
However, in 2015, when the company requested the transfer of farm ownership, Dumeni refused, leading to a legal battle.
Parker underscored the burden of proof, stating that the plaintiff alone must substantiate the contract’s existence.
“The ineluctable conclusion is that the plaintiff has failed to prove the existence of the contract he relies on to sue the first defendant and the second defendant,” he said.
The judge also noted that the second defendant, the registrar of deeds, was not privy to the alleged contract, and no claims were made against the third defendant, a public authority.