Buthelezi loses defamation case

2012-09-25 00:00

INKATHA Freedom Party (IFP) leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has lost a claim for damages for alleged defamation against the publishers of Business Day and its editor, Peter Bruce.

Buthelezi insisted on damages of R200 000 plus his legal representatives’ costs, and that the daily publish a correction and an apology.

An article that appeared on June 30, 2010 quoted a political analyst, Protas Madlala, as saying Buthelezi “has always been a violent man”.

Buthelezi also objected to two other statements in the article. One reads, “Now, with just weeks before he faces near certain challenge, Mr Buthelezi is again warning of violence. But this time not against his traditional political foes, but those within the IFP.”

The other reads: “[Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi] says Mr Buthelezi has a history of threatening opponents with a possibility of violence ‘when he did not get what he wanted’ in the ’80s and ’90s.”

Last week Judge Nigel Willis ruled in favour of the publishers and Bruce in the Supreme Court in Johannesburg and ordered that Buthelezi pay the two parties’ costs.

According to Willis, the article “cannot be defamatory for a reason that is mathematical in both its simplicity and its lucid beauty: it leaves open the possibility that the prince is not complicit in KwaZulu-Natal’s political violence (in which case there is no defamation) but, on the other hand, recognises that there are those who believe that he is.

“If the prince’s complicity in the violence is true, the fact that it would be for the public benefit that this be known would quash the action.”

Willis said that in South Africa “political matters are usually discussed in forthright terms. Strong epithets are used and accusations come readily to the tongue”.

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