Statements by Parks Tau about Mashaba are defamatory‚ high court rules

SALGA chairperson Parks Tau.
SALGA chairperson Parks Tau.
Image: PETER MOGAKI

The high court in Johannesburg held on Friday that statements made by the former mayor of the city‚ Parks Tau‚ in 2016 about current mayor Herman Mashaba were defamatory.

Mashaba approached the court for relief pending the finalisation of a defamation lawsuit for comments Tau made alleging Mashaba was sexist and anti-black.

At a funeral of an ANC councilor on August 28‚ 2016‚ Tau said: "The city is today led by a man who believes women who are senior executives prostituted themselves to be in the jobs they are in. He says that in fact for them to earn the positions that they are in they had to sleep with the leadership.

"We have heard views from the mayor‚ Herman Mashaba‚ who says that in fact if it were up to him he would not want to be black."

Tau did not deny making this statement.

However Tau said his statement was in response to a statement made by Mashaba on August 10 2016 in which he had said: "If the wrong people are in the wrong positions‚ they are going to be purged. The days when they allowed their girlfriends to run state institutions are over."

Tau also defended his statement about Mashaba being anti-black‚ saying this was fair comment based on what Mashaba had said in the past.

Tau said in an interview on Radio 702 in January 2016 that Mashaba had stated that if he could remove all laws that classified him as black‚ he would do so "yesterday".

Mashaba then sought an order from the high court directing Tau to retract the allegedly defamatory statement‚ to refrain from repeating such statements concerning Mashaba in the future and to issue an unconditional apology to Mashaba.

In the judgment passed on Friday the court said Tau’s comments "stretched the boundaries of legitimate political criticism into character assassination".

The high court declared that the statements made by Tau were defamatory and interdicted the former mayor from repeating them.

"All other issues relating to relief‚ including a claim of R2m‚ are deferred to the pending action I have instituted for damages for defamation‚" Mashaba said on Sunday.

Tau was also ordered to pay the costs of Mashaba’s application‚ including the costs of two counsel.

Judge Willem van der Linde held that the degrading aspect of the statement by Tau was "so egregious that it transcends the boundaries of legitimate and fair political side-swipe".

The judge also said found Tau’s statement that "in fact if it were up to (Mashaba) he would not want to be black" was also defamatory.

Van der Linde said to assert of a person with a black cultural allegiance that he denied his blackness‚ was to assert that he betrayed the shared suffering of the members of that community.

"That is to assert of a person that he has turned his back on his own‚ and is a traitor‚" Van der Linde said.

Mashaba said he had decided to donate the proceeds of this costs order to an organisation supporting women in need as a result of abuse and other social ills.

"I will be requesting the department of social development in the city of to assist me identifying a suitable cause‚" Mashaba said.

Mashaba said Tau was given the opportunity to retract these disturbing comments and apologise.

"However‚ he refused to do so which resulted in me having to turn to the courts for relief."

Mashaba said should he succeed in his later envisaged defamation lawsuit‚ he would also donate those proceeds to an organisation supporting women in need in Johannesburg.

- TimesLIVE

Source: TMG Digital.

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