‘I have a clean bill of health’ – Mzwakhe on suing Google for allegedly labeling him HIV+

PHOTO: Gallo images/ Getty images
PHOTO: Gallo images/ Getty images

Cape Town - Mzwakhe Mbuli has confirmed he’s suing search engine Google after he found an article that labelled him “HIV-positive”.

The people’s poet is accusing the company for defamation of character, citing section 10 of the constitution, he contends by classing him as a sufferer of the disease they’re violating his human dignity.

“Currently, I have a clean bill of health,” Mzwakhe told DRUM. “You can’t allow people to give another impression."

“When one or two people say, ‘Are you fine? Are you positive or negative?’ You don’t take it seriously but when a fourth person says something similar, you say, ‘Hang on, you are the fourth person to say this. Where do you find this thing?’” he explains as he discusses how he found out about the rumours related to his health.

Mzwakhe adds a friend who works in the medical field also questioned his HIV status after doing research on famous people living with the disease, and stumbled upon a picture of him.

“He said I was wearing a shirt with a shield and spear. It’s a blue shirt,” Mzwakhe confirms, adding he was also sent the pic via WhatsApp to confirm the existence of the article.

Upon finding out about the article, he contacted his advocate, Mphafolane Jerry Koma, to discuss the matter. Advocate Koma confirmed that along with defaming his name, Mzwakhe can also take action against Google for violating section 14 of the constitution, which focuses on his right to privacy.

Papers will be served on Wednesday to Google over the matter and Mzwakhe says he has taken this step to stop the spreading of fake news.

“I’m alive and I will not just accept that somebody or people out there can post and display me as a person living with HIV.”

Speaking on what he wants to be the outcome of his legal matter with Google, Mzwakhe says he wants to send a stern warning about the dangers of spreading rumours.

“When you demean and defame someone, there are damages.”

Advocate Koma is handling the matter on Mzwakhe’s behalf and explained why they’re suing Google, rather than the medical journal, for the allegations made against the poet.

“When you sue, you have the plaintiff and the defendant and in this case we are having the first and the second defendant. The first defendant will be the person who published the information or who wrote the article,” he explains. “The second defendant will be the one who published – Google in this case”

Advocate Koma insists that while they may not have written the article, the search engine had the responsibility to fact-check what was posted. “We can’t leave Google to say they are innocent. Google was supposed to ensure they verify their information before they can publish it. To get the side of the story of person who is involved or to get his consent or his permission.”

DRUM’s numerous attempts to get comment from Google SA were unsuccessful.