Publication: Issued: Date: 2004-07-01 Reporter:

Law Reports : Delict (Defamation)



De Rebus
The SA Attorneys' Journal

Date July 2004


Prof Heinrich Schulze



In Young v Shaikh 2004 (3) SA 46 (C) the plaintiff (Y) claimed damages from defendant (S) for alleged defamatory statements that S had made about the character of Y during a television programme that was televised on the South African television station eTV on 21 November 2001. The interview related to the much debated arms-acquisition programme of the government and more specifically to the role played by S's brother "Chippy" in the award of a major contract to a business in which a third brother, Shabir, held a not insignificant minority shareholding.

During the programme S denied any wrongdoing by his brother Chippy and - in the process - accused Y of lying, of having initiated a programme of sleaze and slander and of having tendered for the arms acquisition programme in respect of an untested product that he had refused to guarantee. The interview was watched by between 400 000 and 600 000 viewers. Y, an electronic engineer by profession and owner of a company involved in the development of various products relevant to the arms industry, claimed payment of an amount of R250 000.

Nel J rejected S's statement that he had no intention of defaming Y while rabidly attacking Y's integrity. The judge further rejected S's submission that Y should have claimed the publication of an apology instead of damages and should, in any event, have been satisfied by the apology tendered in the plea. The court held that a published apology in the present matter would not serve the interests of justice.

The court further pointed out that freedom of expression did not include the right falsely to attack the integrity of another person for selfish reasons that had nothing to do with public benefit. S had further shown no compunction when attacking the integrity of Y and was indifferent to any financial harm which his baseless accusations could have caused. The court decided to award an amount of R150 000 in damages to Y.

With ackowledgements to Prof Heinrich Schulze and De Rebus.