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13 Jun 2020

Tshegofatso Mathe, Mail & Guardian

Lawyers push for Slapp suit regulation in SA as Australian miner sues environmental activists

"Lawyers push for Slapp suit regulation in SA as Australian miner sues environmental activists", 13 June 2020.

The Western Cape High Court this week heard a case where Australian mining company’s Mineral Resources Commodities (MRC) and its local subsidiary, Mineral Sands Resources (MSR), are suing a group of activists and environment attorneys for a total of R14.25-million in three cases of alleged defamation...Thandeka Kathi, an attorney at the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, told the Mail & Guardian that in defence of the defamation suit they are arguing that the group is the victim of a strategic lawsuit against public participation (Slapp), which she said is meritless and instituted for ulterior purposes...

Kathi said South Africa does not have anti-Slapp legislation and this is something the attorneys are trying to get the courts to develop so that small voices can defend themselves when big corporations want to stifle them...

One example of defamation the mining companies are suing for was allegedly made in a 2017 lecture at the University of Cape Town’s Summer School. Reddell, Davies and Cloete presented lectures as part of a series called the “Mining The Wild and the West Coast: ‘Development’ at what costs?”

When discussing the operations at the Tormin mine Davies said: “We have a situation where this company operates and continues to operate in circumstances where it is in breach of multiple environmental laws, mining laws, municipal by-laws as well as planning laws.” 

She also said: “They have armed guards on site and they have, on occasions, been extremely violent.” 

The mine’s lawyers complained that such comments which were made are “wrongful and defamatory”...