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8 Jun 2020

John Yeld, GroundUp

R14m defamation case between Australian miners and critics will make legal history

Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

"R14m defamation case between Australian miners and critics will make legal history ", 8 June 2020.

South African legal history will be made in the Cape High Court on Tuesday where the first part of novel litigation involving a R14.25m defamation suit by mining interests against activists has been set down for hearing.

Tuesday’s hearing will not deal directly with the merits of these alleged defamations but will consider the plaintiffs’ objections to two special pleas...

The defendants...argue that the plaintiffs’ action amounts to abuse of the court process “to achieve an improper end and to use litigation to cause the defendants financial and/or other prejudice in order to silence them; and/or violates the right to freedom of expression entrenched in section 16 of the Constitution”.

They argue that all the defamation actions against them should be dismissed in terms of common law...If the court finds that existing common law doesn’t allow for such dismissal, then the common law should be developed by the court in order to bring it in line with the Constitution and to protect people from future SLAPP litigation, they say.

The plaintiffs, however, “take exception” to these pleas. They argue that the defendants are asking the trial courts “to take the extraordinary step of closing the doors of court on the plaintiffs, thereby denying them their rights in terms of section 34 of the Constitution, without any regard to the merits of the plaintiffs’ claims”...

If Goliath decides in favour of the plaintiffs, the special pleas will be removed from the defendants’ overall plea in the main defamation trial and they will not be able to argue these special pleas.

But should she rule in favour of the defendants, their two special pleas will be allowed to stand and will be decided by the judge hearing the main defamation trial...