Facebook fight to cost woman thousands of rands

Facebook fight to cost woman thousands of rands.
Facebook fight to cost woman thousands of rands.
Image: bombuscreative / IStock.com

A woman who ranted on Facebook about her former business associate's alleged business ethics that were to have affected hundreds of people could now face a defamation suit.

This is after a judge on Wednesday ruled that the post was defamatory - and even if it were true and might be interesting to the public‚ it was not in the public interest.

Ballito-based events organiser Heidi Garbade first approached the Durban high court last year securing an interim interdict against Tasmyn-Jain van Niekerk‚ whom she had employed to assist her with social media during a Christmas fair in Umhlali in December 2015.

The trouble between the two began when the fair was shut down‚ apparently when the landlord of the premises locked the door because of non-payment of rent.

Garbade said in her interdict application that Van Niekerk had sided with the angry traders and had spread rumours about her business ethics.

Van Niekerk demanded R3‚800 in unpaid commissions from her which‚ she claimed‚ she did not owe.

The next “altercation” occurred in 2016 when Garbade was organising a high-profile polo event. Van Niekerk disparaged Garbade on Facebook.

In response to a lawyer’s letter‚ Van Niekerk refused to take down the post “until you settle the amounts owed to me and others”.

After Garbarde secured an interim order from the court‚ Van Niekerk removed the post.

She denied being the author of a similarly scathing anonymous email and other Facebook posts.

Garbarde returned to court last week asking for the interdict to be made final. Van Niekerk opposed this‚ saying “I believed it was the truth”.

But Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel was not convinced. In his ruling handed down on Wednesday‚ he said: “It is generally accepted that posting of a defamatory matter on social media can constitute publication for the purposes of defamation. I consider the contents to be defamatory."

"Her attack was aimed at ensuring payment of what she claimed was owed to her and [had] nothing to do with public interest or fair comment‚” he said‚ confirming the interdict and ordering Van Niekerk to pay the costs.

He said it was a reflection on both women that the dispute had escalated to the point that it became an opposed application in the high court.

“My impression is that neither of them can afford to litigate in the high court and unfortunately they will have to accept the consequences of their failure to resolve the dispute in a mature and sensible manner.”