Former Absa CEO Maria Ramos has won her defamation case against Independent Media.
In a judgment handed down by the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg on Friday, Judge May Keightley said an article that Independent Newspaper's The Star published on 9 December 2020 was defamatory.
The article, a column, titled "Ramos has much to answer for", was a leader piece on the editorial page. It said that the former CEO's appointment as chairperson of the AngloGold Ashanti board at that time should not be celebrated because she had to "apologise" to South Africans. Among the sins the article claimed she committed include fixing the rand and donating to President Cyril Ramaphosa's CR17 campaign.
But Keightley declared those statements "defamatory of her, false and unlawful". She ordered the media house to permanently remove the article from all its platforms and social media accounts within 24 hours. It must also publish an apology to Ramos within 24 hours and, in the next print edition of The Star, unconditionally retract its "false and defamatory statements".
"The media has an obligation to act lawfully as the instrument through which the right to freedom of the press is exercised. Where the media makes defamatory statements about public figures it is nonetheless required to justify its conduct in terms of the law... Irresponsible reporting of false facts can be extremely damaging to democracy," read the judgment.