Southern Defenders to make submissions to the South African Constitutional Court as amicus curiae in landmark case dealing with protection against SLAPP suits and the right to freedom of expression
Johannesburg, South Africa
On Thursday, 17 February 2022, Southern Defenders, represented by Lawyers for Human Rights, will act as amicus curiae in the Constitutional Court in the matter of Mineral Sands Resources Propriety Limited and Another v Christine Reddell and Others, CCT 66/21. This is an appeal concerning the landmark judgment on the Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP suit), the right to freedom of expression and access to courts.
The appeal, which is brought by mining company Mineral Sands Resources (Pty) Ltd & three others (the applicants) is against the ground-breaking judgment of the Western Cape High Court in February 2021, concerning a claim for defamation against a group of South African environmental lawyers and activists (human rights defenders). In their submissions before the high court, the applicants sought damages in the amount of R14,25 million (950 000 USD) against the six human rights defenders, for publicly criticising the applicant’s mining activities and operations, including the harmful impact that they posed on both the environment and economy of the affected areas.
In dismissing the case and ordering the mining company to pay costs, Judge Goliath classified the litigation as a SLAPP suit aimed at silencing the human rights defenders concerned and affirmed that “the strategy to target a group of environmental activists more or less at the same time may have the effect of intimidating them to such an extent, that they may withdraw from further engagement after being sued for damages…This strategy may operate to produce a chilling effect not only on the defendants’ constitutional right to freedom of expression but also on others who considered speaking out on the issue in the future…”
In the appeal brought to the Constitutional Court, Southern Defenders has been admitted as a friend of the court, and its submissions will emphasize that, when interpreting the issue of SLAPP suits, which is novel in South African law, the court must interpret the issues before it through the lens of a range of international instruments that are both binding and non-binding on South Africa.
Southern Defenders Chairperson, Arnold Tsunga said ”Our involvement as a friend of the court is inspired by Southern Defenders’ belief that South Africa has a constitutional obligation to comply with international law standards that have allowed human rights defenders to advocate for the protection and promotion of human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, access to courts and the right of assembly and association”
Southern Defenders remains greatly indebted to its team of lawyers, Adv Jatheen Bhima, Adv Mluleki Marongo, and Lawyers for Human Rights, for their passion and dedication in ensuring that we make submissions to the Constitutional Court on this important matter, in which the outcome of the case will have a great impact on the region.
The matter is set to be heard virtually by the Constitutional Court, on its YouTube Channel, on 17 February 2022 from 9:30.
For further information and media inquiries, please contact
Southern Defenders: Jacob van Garderen at +27 82 820 30960
Lawyers for Human Rights: Charne Tracey, Strategic Litigation Programme, firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +27 11 339 1960