Juju fails to gag City Press
Adriaan Basson and Piet Rampedi
“Julius Malema is a public person. Intrusion into his private life is warranted.”
With these words, Judge Colin Lamont yesterday dismissed an urgent interdict application by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema to gag City Press.
Malema had asked the South Gauteng High Court to prevent City Press from printing details of interviews with sources alleging that he uses the Ratanang Family Trust as a conduit for bribes.
Malema’s advocate, Viwe Notshe SC, told the court that his client had no issue with the trust being mentioned, but that he objected to it being linked to “illicit payments”.
In his affidavit, Malema said the publication of these allegations would cause him irreparable harm. It would injure his reputation and “lower me in the estimation of right thinking members of society”.
Malema also said that a damages claim would be “cold comfort”.
But Lamont disagreed, saying City Press had shown that it took reasonable steps to test the credibility of its sources and that Malema chose not to deal with the paper’s “fairly detailed allegations”.
Lamont – coincidentally the same judge who heard the hate speech case brought against Malema by AfriForum – also shattered the youth leader’s belief that he is a private citizen entitled to the same level of privacy “normal” South Africans enjoy.
“At present, there is a discussion in the press concerning whether or not his income justifies his expenses,” Lamont said.
“The question of Mr Malema’s income is topical and relevant. The public is entitled to have full disclosure by persons who stand in public position, and who are high-profile personalities who invite comment about themselves.”
Willem de Klerk, the lawyer acting for City Press, lauded the judgment, saying it was a very important ruling for press freedom.
“It confirms that those subject to adverse publicity cannot inhibit the media from publishing merely by saying, ‘it is all false’. They should engage the media about legitimate questions asked.”