David Mackenzie, school coach accused of inappropriate behaviour, drops bid to block News24 investigation

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David Mackenzie
David Mackenzie
  • Water polo coach David Mackenzie sought a court order barring News24 from publishing its My Only Story live investigation.
  • Last week, Mackenzie was named in episode two of second season of the podcast series.
  • He has been accused of widespread inappropriate behaviour with pupils under his care during his time as a teacher and coach at St Andrew's College in Makhanda. 

Former St Andrew's College (SAC) water polo coach David Mackenzie, who is currently teaching at a Johannesburg school, has abandoned an urgent application to interdict News24 and non-profit company My Only Story from further publishing the My Only Story live investigation into the treatment of children.

Over the past two weeks, News24 and My Only Story have revealed details of allegations of improper conduct against Mackenzie, including a claim that he signed two boys out of the SAC sanatorium against school policies in June 2018.

Mackenzie abruptly resigned from St Andrews after being notified that he would be facing a disciplinary hearing for taking the boys out when he wasn't supposed to.

A month later, he was employed by Grey College in Bloemfontein. The prestigious Free State school earlier told News24 that it had not done any reference checks with SAC before hiring Mackenzie.

EXCLUSIVE | 'We can still do things': Top school's coach quits ahead of hearing for sneaking pupil out

In an motion served on News24's lawyers late on Tuesday night, Mackenzie indicated he would seek an urgent interdict barring the publication of any further articles, as well as upcoming episodes of the podcasts.

News24's editor-in-chief Adriaan Basson and Johannesburg writer Deon Wiggett, who is leading production of the podcast, were among the six respondents cited in the papers filed by Mackenzie.

He argued that it was not properly investigated, and that he was being defamed and prejudiced.

Last week, News24 sent the teacher's legal representative an extensive list of questions, which went unanswered. The publication had given the teacher 48 hours to reply.

The lawyer threatened legal action should his client be named. 

Mackenzie said the questions sent to him were "not designed to give me a fair opportunity to state my side of the story but are in fact in the nature of interrogatories".

He also argued that the application was for an urgent interim interdict to restrain the respondents from publishing the podcast, articles and any commentaries concerning him. 

Mackenzie said:

The responses to the podcast have been scathing and judgmental and have had the result that I have been branded a inter alia pedophile, vuilgoed, and in the class of pedocreeps (sic). It respectfully submitted that the aforesaid publication which initially did not name me, but referred to me as “Kenny”, and subsequently named me, objectively conveys a defamatory meaning (without considering the innuendo) that I am: 1. A person of low morals; . 2. A pedophile; 3. A person who has groomed scholars whilst in a position of trust; 4. A person who is responsible or contributed to the death of Thomas Kruger.

In arguing why the matter was urgent, he said he had been unable to arrange with his lawyer to consult with counsel following last Thursday's episode. He said he was unable to arrange consultation before Monday.

"Although reasonableness and truth and the public interest, I am advised, are good defences to interdictory relief in defamation matters, these defences are usually founded on fact and not speculation."

News24 reported that Mackenzie was investigated following the death of Thomas Kruger, a 16-year-old pupil who took his life on the school property.

The case was dropped when the DPP declined to prosecute due to lack of evidence and non-cooperation of witnesses.

The teacher also argued it was "appropriate" to note that the case was closed.

READ | David Mackenzie asked to step down from Eastern Gauteng Schools Waterpolo, pending probe

He also stated that he was facing a pending disciplinary hearing, at his current school of employment Reddam House in Bedfordview, and that further publication of "defamatory material" would impact on him and bar him from earning a living.

"My credibility as a teacher and a water polo coach will be irremediably compromised," he argued.

Mackenzie is expected to face a hearing at Reddam House on Friday.

The school placed him on precautionary suspension following the publication of the latest podcast last week.

"In the circumstances I am advised and I respectfully submit that I should properly be granted interim relief pending a hearing of oral evidence or an action to determine whether I am entitled to a final interdict," he said.

Mackenzie added that he would be "seriously and irremediably prejudiced" if relief he sought was not immediately granted.

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