Former Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau has been interdicted from making further “defamatory” comments about current mayor Herman Mashaba, with a high court judge ruling on Friday that Tau’s comments went beyond what could be considered fair comment.
Judge Willem Van der Linde of the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg ruled that comments made by Tau in August 2016, that Mashaba believed that women had to sleep with men in order to become senior executives, were defamatory. He also berated Tau for saying that Mashaba wished that he was not black.
The interdict forms part of a defamation suit brought by Mashaba against Tau because of these comments. The defamation application will be heard at a later date. Mashaba is claiming R2 million in damages, which he has promised to donate to an organisation which supports vulnerable and abused women.
Tau was ordered to pay the costs of the interdict application and Mashaba said that amount will also be paid to an organisation supporting women. Mashaba said he has asked the Department of Social Development in the City of Johannesburg to assist him in finding a suitable organisation.
On August 28, 2016, at the funeral of ANC Councillor, Nonhlanhla Mthembu, Tau said:
“The City of Joburg is today led by a man who believes that the women who are senior executives prostituted themselves to be in the jobs they are in. He says that in fact for them for them to earn the positions they are in they had to sleep with the leadership…”
Van der Linde said that the comment was defamatory, and that, “the degrading aspect of the statement is so egregious that it transcends the boundaries of legitimate and fair political side-swipe.”
He also said that the comment, “stretched the boundaries of legitimate political criticism into character assassination”.
Tau also said, “We have heard views from the Mayor Herman Mashaba who says that in fact if it were up to him he would not want to be black. To assert of a person with a black cultural allegiance that he denies his blackness, is to assert that he betrays the shared suffering of the members of that community. That is to assert of a person that he has turned his back on his own, and is a traitor.”
Van der Linde also said these remarks fell foul of the fair comment rule.
“If there is still to be any limit at all to freedom of expression, it seems to me that it must lie at the interface with the hurtful history suffered by some,” he said.
Mashaba said the comments resulted in protests by the ANC Women’s League outside his offices, and “discredited my hard work and reputation”.
“Instead of being able to get on with the mandate given to our multi-party government by the residents of Johannesburg, I found myself having to constantly refute these baseless allegations.
"It is without doubt that the ANC has failed to accept that the residents of Johannesburg no longer trust them to lead our City. Instead of dealing with facts, they have continuously resorted to character assassination in an attempt to discredit this administration," he said.
"Parks Tau was given the opportunity to retract these disturbing comments and apologise. However, he refused to do so which resulted in me having to turn to the courts for relief. I would like to thank my legal team headed by Advocate Dali Mpofu for helping ensure justice is upheld,” Mashaba said.