Publication: Cape Times
Court Turns Down Defamation Claim Against Public Protector
R500 000 defamation claim by businessman Richard Young against Public Protector
Selby Baqwa was turned down by the Pretoria High Court yesterday.
issued a statement in August 2001 in which he told the media that Young's
behaviour could be seen as "cowardly".
This was after Young and his legal
team on August 30, 2001, excused themselves from the public hearings of the
joint investigation team into the strategic defence packages (arms
Judge JMC Smit said in his judgment yesterday: "It is inexplicable
why the defendant (Baqwa) made this ill-considered statement at a most
inopportune moment during the proceedings, but that does not make the statement
"The mere fact that the defendant said some people may regard
the plaintiff's (Young) behaviour as cowardly does not convey to reasonable
people an impairment of plaintiff's reputation.
The statement may also
indicate that as many people may hold the view that his action in withdrawing
from the proceedings is well-founded.
"In my view it is most unfortunate
that the public protector made uncalled-for remarks of the plaintiff during
proceedings at a stage when he was not even qualified or justified to make a
credibility finding on any of the witnesses, but that does not make the remarks
defamatory," the judge said.
Young and his legal team walked out of
the public hearings shortly before Rear Admiral Johnny Kamerman of the navy was
due to take the stand.
In leaving, Adam Pitman, Young's attorney and
Young himself made certain comments to the media. Baqwa, on the same day,
instructed his spokesman to issue a statement in which he said Young, in
excusing himself from further participation in the public hearings could be seen
Young said in court papers the "cowardly" remark was
defamatory and it would impair his reputation in the eyes of the reasonable
Baqwa admitted he gave instructions for the issuing of the
statement, but he said the comments constituted fair comment on facts as they
had occurred in the public hearing and that it concerned a matter of public
Young, an electronics engineer, is the managing director of
CC11 Systems, also known as C121, which lost out on the arms deal. He claimed
there were irregularities in the awarding of a tender for information management
systems used in the four Corvette ships bought under the country's multi-billion
rand arms deal.
CC11 was named the preferred supplier of these systems,
but the tender was awarded to French company Detexis.
Young is involved
in a R150 million lawsuit against the government regarding his lost bid.
With acknowledgements to Sapa and the Cape Times.