Young Loses Defamation Case
Pretoria - A R500 000 defamation claim by businessman Richard Young against South African public protector Selby Baqwa was turned down by Pretoria High Court on Wednesday.
Baqwa 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 excused themselves on August 30 2001 from the public hearings of the joint investigation team into the strategic defence packages (arms deal).
Judge J M C Smit said in his judgment on Wednesday: "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 defamatory.
"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," said the judge.
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 instructed his spokesperson on the same day to issue a statement in which he said Young, in excusing himself from further participation in the public hearings could be seen as cowardly.
Young said in affidavits the cowardly remark was defamatory and it would impair his reputation in the eyes of a reasonable person.
Baqwa admitted he gave instructions for the issue 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 interest.
Young, an electronics engineer, is the managing director of CC11 (sic) Systems, also known as C121(sic), who 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 multibillion-rand arms deal.
CC11 (sic) was named as the preferred supplier of these systems, but the tender was awarded to French company Detexis.
Young is also involved in a R150m lawsuit against the government regarding his lost bid.
With acknowledgements to Sapa and News24.