Paratus lost millions in CoW bullying

Obrein Simasiku

Paratus Telecom has welcomed the outcome of their appeal in the Supreme Court against the City of Windhoek, which allows them now to continue with digging trenches and installing their fibre cables around the city for connectivity.

“We have been doing things right from the beginning, and we have never been wrong. We are happy the rule of law has prevailed, despite intimidations and after having lost out on millions of dollars for the past years that our work was being interrupted. We have won both cases since the start from the High Court, and this signifies our good standing,” Paratus Executive Chairman Barney Harmse said.

His remarks comes after last week’s Supreme Court appeal judgement, in which appeal judge Dave Smuts, on Wednesday declared that the CoW acted unlawfully when it interfered in the operations of Paratus. This is after the City of Windhoek instructed City Police Officials who then confiscated equipment and vehicles of Paratus employees who were busy installing fibre optic cables around Windhoek, according to the judgement.

The first leg of the legal tussle ended in a loss to CoW in March 2020, when the High Court came to a similar conclusion, a decision which was subsequently appealed, but Smuts together with acting judges of appeal Theo Frank and Shafimana Ueitele, still ruled in favour of Paratus.

In their judgement, they found that CoW had no legal basis for sending officers to confiscate the equipment and vehicles from the employees who were busy working, thus such action was considered a violation and an act of brutality against Paratus.

The rift between Paratus and CoW came after the local authority wanted to venture into a similar line of business to provide internet connection, as part of municipality’s plan at the time to hatch its mega plan of a smart city.

The Supreme Court dismissed the matter and CoW was ordered to cover Parastus’ legal costs.

“The whole case was not based on merits but these were individual plans with a hidden agenda. It is unfortunate that now we as ratepayers have to fork out a lot of money to pay for the legal costs,” said Harmse, as he promised that “the fight is not over, we will continue fighting similar nonsense. We however reserve our right for now, but we have not forgotten the money we lost for the two years [2018-2020] that our services were being interrupted.”

Asked what he meant by ” the fight is not over”, Harmse responded “I didn’t say we are going to claim for damages, but…” Pressured on the extent of the losses he said, “look, if one day of service interruption runs in a loss of N$12 million, then that should tell you how much we lost.”

He further said their efforts and ambitions are geared towards the development of ICT infrastructure and service provision to institutions such as schools, saying they have provided internet connectivity to roughly 10 000 learners who are along the channel where they are digging trenches and installing fibre in different parts of the country.

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