Milenkovic vindicated - BSA, Qithi must pay up

IN THE CLEAR : Boxing promoter Branco Milenkovic Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images
IN THE CLEAR : Boxing promoter Branco Milenkovic Photo: Lefty Shivambu/Gallo Images

TOP boxing promoter Branco Milenkovic has been awarded a record damages claim after suing Boxing SA (BSA) and its suspended CEO for defamation.

South Gauteng High Court judge Margaret Victor yesterday ordered BSA and Moffat Qithi to pay Branco Milenkovic R500000 - R250000 apiece - for two comments made by Qithi, which she found to be defamatory and "inspired by malice".

Milenkovic's attorney, David Swartz of Phillip Silver and Associates, said it was the biggest defamation award in SA legal history. The judge also ordered BSA - which is heavily dependent on government funding - to pay all costs, estimated to be more than R2-million.

Qithi, who was suspended as BSA CEO last year for failing to disclose he had a criminal record before applying for the R100000-a-month job, was quoted in two newspaper articles in mid-2012 commenting on fighter Noni Tenge being stripped of her IBF world title for inactivity.

In the one story he claimed Milenkovic was to blame for her being stripped, and in the other he claimed Milenkovic had breached his contract with the boxer.

But the judge found the promoter had done all he could to try organise a fight before she was stripped, and that it was BSA which had "intervened" at the SABC. The national broadcaster would normally pay TV rights, a critical source of funding for promoters to stage tournaments.

Milenkovic even approached Qithi detailing his problems, but the CEO's reply in an e-mail - "thanks, Branco" - demonstrated his disinterest.

"In my view, this response showed a very nonchalant attitude to something that is very important," said the judge, adding that his comments in the newspaper reflected that same attitude and were "inspired by ma lice".

"The plaintiff [Milenkovic] was a good witness. He was consistent in what he told the court."

But the judge was less impressed by Qithi's testimony: "It was very difficult to find consistency in his version of events."

BSA's acting CEO, Loyiso Mtya, declined to comment.

Milenkovic has another court action looming against BSA, this time challenging them over the ownership of TV rights.

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