Tourism groups accuse Hollard of 'going rogue'

Most insurers now recognise the validity of business interruption claims arising from the coronavirus pandemic following legal precedent set by courts in South Africa and the UK.

24 March 2021 | Tourism

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



Two prominent tourism groups in Namibia have said that Hollard Namibia's refusal to pay out coronavirus insurance claims is placing the tourism sector and conservation efforts in acute distress.

Gondwana Collection Namibia and the Na'ankusê Group have accused Hollard Namibia of going rogue by refusing to settle their coronavirus-related business interruption claims. The two groups have enlisted the help of a specialist public loss adjuster, Insurance Claims Africa (ICA). ICA has spearheaded the fight against South African insurers that similarly refused to pay interruption claims linked to the pandemic until they were compelled to do so by the courts.



Precedent

In a webinar held last week, ICA said it appeared Hollard Namibia was an outlier, with most other insurers now recognising the validity of these claims following legal precedent set in South Africa and the UK.

These included Hollard South Africa, which is currently settling claims in line with the judgments.

It was pointed out that Hollard Namibia's policy wording is identical to that used in South Africa. Hollard Namibia argued that claimants are not cooperating or providing the necessary documentation. However, the ICA said after many months of providing all required information to Hollard in Namibia, it believes claimants have gone beyond what is required of a normal insurance claim.

“Hollard Namibia seems to be adopting a Stalingrad strategy of delay, deny and defend,” said Ryan Woolley, CEO of ICA.

He said it was disingenuous to argue that the circumstances of Hollard Namibia's policies were materially different from coronavirus business interruption (BI) insurance claims in South Africa, the UK and the rest of the world.

“They should be accepting liability and moving forward to resolve quantum in a fair and transparent manner.”

The CEO of Na'ankusê, Rudie van Vuuren, said tourism is their prime source of funding for all their operations and due to the coronavirus, that has completely dried up.

“In addition, we are now faced with crippling legal costs as we try to hold Hollard Namibia to our contract.” According to him, with no external source of income or relief from their insurer, they already had to let 40 employees go.

“We took out BI insurance specifically to prevent a sustainability crisis should something go wrong.”



High Court

On Friday, the High Court heard an application by Hollard Namibia to declare Gondwana's application as not urgent. Gondwana hopes the court will find in its favour and compel the insurer to honour its BI insurance claim, as courts in South Africa and abroad have done. High Court Judge Kobus Miller will hand down his decision on the urgency of the matter on 13 April.

“Hollard has been particularly aggressive and obstructive where it concerns our claim. A year after the first coronavirus case in Namibia, and despite providing the insurer with all the information that they need, Hollard continues to ignore the numerous court judgments in South Africa and the UK, and are using every tactic to delay and frustrate the process,” said Gondwana CEO Gys Joubert.

“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 for confidentiality and a disregard for information shared in good faith.”

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