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15 Jun 2020

South Africa: Activists & lawyers argue in court that lawsuits brought by MRC & MSR against them are Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation

From the 9th of June 2020, environmental attorneys and community activists are defending a defamation matter known as a SLAPP suit where damages amounting to a total amount of R14,25 million is being claimed by the Australian mining company, Mineral Resources Commodities (MRC) and its local subsidiary, MSR. In defamation lawsuits filed in South Africa against two Centre for Environmental Rights lawyers and four other defenders the total requested damages were USD 662,000 – 2,890 times what a minimum wage worker would make in a month in South Africa. Mineral Commodities Limited, which controls Mineral Sands Resources — the company that sued the lawyers — reported a total revenue of USD 55.4 million in its latest annual report and an additional USD 14.5 million in generated cash flow from operations. For the first time in South Africa’s legal history, the concept of SLAPP (Strategic Litigation against Public Participation) is being referred to in legal argument, which states that the defamation proceedings are an abuse of court process and should not be permitted since it is aimed at silencing public criticism regarding environmental issues. When the Resource Centre invited the company to comment on these lawsuits being seen as SLAPPs in September 2019, the company stated that: "The notion that the company has deliberately brought so-called ‘SLAPP lawsuits’ is meritless. We also do not agree that this is how the lawsuits are perceived by South Africans in general". The full statement is available here.