SLAPPing back: Court checks corporate bullying

Posted 12 February 2021

Readers may be aware that Albe Geldenhuys (USN) and MNI (Antagolin) (Dr Conrad Smith) is suing CamCheck and Dr Harris Steinman for alleged defamation.

We regard this as what is recognised internationally as a SLAPP suite (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation).

In other words, these two companies are trying to silence CamCheck and Dr Steinman for pointing out the insufficient robust evidence, among other, in support of the claims being made for their products.

South Africa has not previously recognised SLAPP suits for what they are, until now.

In a recent court ruling, Judge Goliath – for the first time in South Africa, acknowledged this pernicious practice for what it is.

Quotes from the ruling:

“It is trite that legal process is abused when it is used for a purpose other than that for what it has been intended or designed for. Corporations should not be allowed to weaponise our legal system against the ordinary citizen and activists in order to intimidate and silence them. It appears that the defamation suit is not genuine and bona fide, but merely a pretext with the only purpose to silence its opponents and critics”. 

Goliath said the term SLAPP suit was coined in the United States some years ago to describe “meritless or exaggerated lawsuits intended to intimidate civil society advocates, human rights defenders, journalists, academics and individuals as well as organisations acting in the public interest”. 

“They are litigated into silence by corporations and often times drained of their resources.

“Essentially its aim is to silence those challenging powerful corporates on issues of public concern. In essence the main purpose of the suit is to punish or retaliate against citizens who have spoken out against the plaintiffs”. 

“The signature elements of SLAPP cases is the use of the legal system, usually disguised as an ordinary civil claim, designed to discourage others from speaking on issues of public importance and exploiting the inequality of finances and human resources available to large corporations compared to the targets”.

“These lawsuits are notoriously long, drawn out and extremely expensive legal battles, which consume vast amounts of time, energy, money and resources. In essence, SLAPPs are designed to turn the justice system into a weapon to intimidate people who are exercising their constitutional rights, restrain public interest in advocacy and activism; and convert matters of public interest into technical private law disputes.” 

“Generally, exorbitant damages claims are part of the strategy, chilling public participation and sending a clear message to activists that there are unaffordable financial risks attached to public participation.”

Exactly! Albe Geldenhuys (USN) is claiming R2 million rand in their defamation suite.

Here are some reports on this landmark ruling:

Aussie mining magnate gets legal snotklap after threatening to sue SA activists for millions

By Tony Carnie• 10 February 2021
Daily Maverick

SLAPPing back: Court checks corporate bullying

By Lisa Chamberlain• 11 February 2021



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