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Mineral Sands Resources & Zamile Qunya v Christine Reddel, Tracey Davies and Davine Cloete (SLAPP exception application) 9 February 2021

9 February 2021

The judgment of the Western Cape High Court is available here.

Judge: Goliath DJP

Judgment delivered: 9 February 2021

Case Number: 7595/2017

In this matter, the Western Cape High Court confirmed that a new defence called a Strategic Litigation against Public Participation (SLAPP) defence is available in circumstances where a lawsuit is brought with the intention of silencing critics and opponents. Such a defence can now be raised when litigation that is not aimed at vindicating legitimate rights, but is part of a broad and purposeful strategy to intimidate, distract and silence public criticism has been launched.

This is the first judicial recognition of SLAPPs suits in South Africa, and the new defence represents a development in the common law.

The court affirmed the constitutional right to free speech and emphasized its importance in a democracy. Goliath J also recognised that public participation is a key component in environmental activism, and the chilling effect of a SLAPP suit which can be detrimental to the enforcement of environmental rights and land use decisions.  The judgment contains consideration of many other jurisdictions in which SLAPP suits are recognised and the ways in which courts have dealt with such cases.

This is an interlocutory application in a defamation case brought by mining companies Mineral Sands Resources (Pty) Ltd and Mineral Commodities Limited against environmental attorneys and community activists who criticised the mines for the environmental and social damage they had caused.

For more information on the defamation case see https://cer.org.za/programmes/corporate-accountability/litigation.