Paratus wins city fibre case

Court rejects municipality's application
Augetto Graig
The lawsuit between the City of Windhoek (CoW) and Paratus Telecommunications for the laying of fibre in the capital, came to an end yesterday, with the Supreme Court finding in favour of the latter.
The two institutions went head to head in 2020 when municipal officials and City Police prevented Paratus employees from laying fibre cables.
Paratus began installing fibre cables in Windhoek in 2013.
While Paratus has long been involved in the laying of fibre cables and is rapidly expanding throughout Namibia and abroad, the CoW has its own plans to provide telecommunications services to residents. As a result, the municipality began to impose stricter requirements for approval.
Paratus said in its affidavit that the municipality’s increasing pressure due to these stricter regulations was part of a strategic plan to utilize and commercialize existing optical fibre cables themselves.
The company referred to the municipality’s intention to take advantage of Paratus’ infrastructure, and then compete with the company.
Judges Dave Smuts, Theo Frank and Shafimane Ueitele yesterday rejected the municipality's application for appeal against a previous High Court decision which prohibited them from interfering in Paratus’ activities.
The original order was granted after Paratus approached the courts. This came after the City Police confiscated their equipment on 13 February 2020 and prevented Paratus from continuing their fibre laying operations.
The court reprimanded the municipality for using law enforcement for its own gain, saying: “Taking the law into one’s own hands is fundamentally contrary to the rule of law,” the judges wrote. “It is exacerbated when a local authority tries to enforce authority through its own police force.”
The judges ruled that this was an abuse of power, saying the court has jurisdiction despite the Namibian Regulatory Authority for Communications (CRAN) resolving disputes between telecommunications service providers.
Smuts, Frank and Ueitele said in their ruling that Paratus was entitled to lay fibre cables, that the company had been harmed, and that Paratus could not seek similar protection from any authority other than the Supreme Court.
The judges were also not convinced by the City’s allegation that Paratus acted unreasonably and harmfully.
“The actions of the municipality as set out here are deplorable and justify the worst censorship of this court,” reads the court decision.
The municipality's application for appeal failed and was rejected with costs.