Namibia: Hollard Payout Delays Sinking Tourism Companies

THE Na’ankusê and Gondwana Groups have said insurance company Hollard Namibia’s refusal and constant delays in paying out Covid-19 insurance claims continues to put the vulnerable San community and tourism sector in peril.

In a webinar with specialist public loss adjuster Insurance Claims Africa (ICA) yesterday, the two companies said the fact that Hollard Namibia is refusing to settle business interruption claims, places the San community, the tourism sector and conservation efforts in acute distress.

ICA is a public loss adjustment firm representing over 900 claimants in Namibia and South Africa against large insurance companies regarding business interruption insurance claims stemming from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The loss adjustment firm said it appears Hollard Namibia is an outlier, with most other insurers now recognising the validity of these claims following legal precedent set by courts in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

This includes Hollard South Africa, which is currently settling claims in line with the judgements.

Hollard Namibia’s policy wording is identical to those in South Africa, where insurers, including Hollard South Africa, have already begun settling claims based on the understanding that legal precedent has confirmed the insurer’s liability.

Hollard Namibia is arguing that claimants are not cooperating, or providing the documentation required.

However, the ICA says after many months of providing all required information, it believes claimants have gone beyond what is required of a normal insurance claim.

ICA’s chief executive officer Ryan Woolley said Hollard Namibia seems to have adopted a Stalingrad strategy of delay, deny and defend.

Woolley added that the simple fact is that extensive international legal precedent has been set that claimants who bought business interruption insurance that includes cover for infectious and notifiable diseases should receive the payouts they deserve.

“It is unreasonable and disingenuous to think that the circumstances of Hollard Namibia’s policies with their customers are materially different from Covid-19 BI claims in South Africa, the UK and the rest of the world. They should accept liability and move forward to resolve quantum in a fair and transparent manner,” the chief executive officer stressed.

Na’ankusê chief executive officer Rudie van Vuuren noted that tourism is their prime source of funding for all operations, but that has completely dried up because of the pandemic.

Van Vuuren also said the group is now faced with crippling legal costs, as it is trying to hold Hollard Namibia to the contract.

He said with no external source of income or relief from their insurer, Na’ankusê has already had to let 40 employees go.

“We took out BI insurance specifically to prevent a sustainability crisis should something go wrong. We have been loyal customers for over 16 years, paying our insurance premiums on time every month. It is extremely disappointing that Hollard Namibia are placing a most vulnerable community, as well as the future of tourism, conservation and the passing on of ancient skills at risk through their refusal to honour our claims,” Van Vuuren added.

Gondwana goes to court tomorrow, where it will face an application brought by Hollard that the Gondwana application is not urgent.

Gondwana hopes the court will find in its favour and compel the insurer to honour its BI insurance claim, as courts in both South Africa and abroad have done.

Gondwana chief executive officer Gys Joubert said Hollard has been aggressive and obstructive where it concerns their claim.

He added that a year after the first Covid-19 case in Namibia, and despite providing the insurer with all the information that they need, Hollard continued to ignore the numerous court judgements in South Africa and the UK, and are using every tactic to delay and frustrate the process.

“Most concerning has been its latest move to use Gondwana’s confidential client data to survey our clients despite our express instruction not to do so. It shows complete contempt of confidentiality and a disregard for information shared in good faith. Indeed, it is a breach of the principle of trust upon which the entire insurance industry is founded,” Joubert noted.

Hollard’s spokesperson Sam Kauapirura said his company was unable to provide a detailed response to the allegations raised as the company is committed to client confidentiality and that the Gondwana claim in particular is the subject of a matter to be heard in the Namibian High Court.

“We regard the relationship between insurer and insured as sacrosanct and as a result are disappointed by today’s events, at which we were not represented,” he said.

Kauapirura said Hollard Namibia continues to engage with both Gondwana and N/a’ankusê, and are confident that the upcoming court matter, brought by Gondwana, will provide a clear way forward in respect of the Gondwana claim.

“In the case of N/a’ankusê, we are optimistic that resolution can be obtained once we receive the information we have requested. No two business interruption claims are the same and all such claims must be assessed on their individual merits. We cannot follow a blanket approach that declares all business interruption claims valid or that declares all of them invalid. That is why we continue to try to work as closely as possible with affected clients in an attempt to evaluate, assess and settle valid claims,” Kauapirura added.

Hollard Namibia has received approximately 70 such claims from policyholders.

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