Arms Bidder Wins Damages for Slur on TV
Johannesburg - One of the losing arms deal bidders has won R150 000 in damages after being defamed on a television programme by a member of the Shaik family.
Richard Young is also legally challenging a decision to give a R30-million contract to African Defence Systems (ADS) instead of his company, CCII Systems, and is suing the government for damages.
Young claimed damages from Yunis Shaik, who was interviewed on e.tv during November 2001. This was when Chippy Shaik, the former head of the Department of Defence's arms acquisition programme, had been suspended and Schabir Shaik, shareholder in ADS, was ill. As a result Yunis Shaik, an attorney, stood in for his brothers.
The interview was about the arms deal and more specifically about the alleged role played by Chippy Shaik in awarding the contract to ADS - a company in which Schabir Shaik (according to the judgment) held a "not insignificant minority shareholding".
During the interview Shaik denied any wrongdoing by Chippy and accused Young of lying. He further said that Young had initiated a programme of sleaze and slander, and tendered an untested product which he had refused to guarantee. Shaik did not deny that he said this.
Young is the managing director of CCII Systems. He is an electronics engineer specialising in combat systems for naval combat ships. A combat suite is a set of systems that enables a naval vessel to engage in combat.
In his judgement Judge Hennie Nel described the development of CCII's combat suites and its bidding for a contact in the arms deal.
The judge said: "Eventually and contrary to the initial specifications and wishes of the navy, including the specified use of fibre optic cabling, and a price in excess of that of the indigenous system, the French-owned system (the French arms manufacturer Thomson CSF-Thales owned the majority of shares in African Defence Systems) was purchased by the weapons-acquisition committee."
Young's system was, however, recognised by other countries and is now used in the latest US aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan, and the US Navy's latest class of ships - the San Antonio class of Marine Corps assault vessels.
Shaik said in evidence that he was surprised to see, on viewing a tape of the interview, that he had been so intemperate. He also admitted to exceeding the bounds of fair commitment and giving offence to Young.
Shaik's legal team, however, argued that Young should have asked for an apology - and quoted a court case to support their view.
Judge Nel was not impressed: "Even if this little treasure can be recovered from a nook in our legal attic, I do not believe that a published apology in this matter would serve the interest of justice.
"Freedom of expression does not include the right to falsely attack the integrity of a fellow citizen for selfish reasons or for reasons which have nothing to do with public benefit," he said.
He added that an apology in the plea and a half-hearted apology in evidence could certainly not be regarded as adequate.
"Shaik showed no compunction when attacking the integrity of Young and was indifferent to any financial harm which his baseless accusations could have caused. In the circumstances there should in my view not be any reason to try to avoid serious financial harm to the culprit,: Judge Nel said.
He ordered Shaik to pay Young R150 000 in damages, and also pay the legal costs for both sides.
With acknowledgement to the Daily Dispatch.