SADTU wins legal interdict against rival union

19 August 2020

The South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) has successfully interdicted a rival union from making defamatory and injurious statements against it.

On Monday, the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Durban ruled that the Educators Union of South Africa (EUSA) and its president Scelo Bhengu should publicly and unconditionally retract the statements and apologise for the injury caused to SADTU.

Monday’s court action arose after EUSA published statements on its Facebook page in July alleging that SADTU was involved in looting by inflating prices for the supply of Jojo tanks, sanitisers, masks and face shields to schools.

EUSA further alleged that SADTU was corrupt and did not care, or respect teachers and had abandoned its duties as a trade union. It also claimed that SADTU was not independent and did not care about teachers and learners because it was a “friend of the employer”.

In his founding affidavit, SADTU General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke rejected the allegations as false and stated that SADTU wanted to protect its reputation as a responsible, honest and competent trade union.

In part, his affidavit read: “The respondent has unlawfully attacked the union’s reputation by publishing defamatory and injurious falsehoods on its Facebook…”

It went on to say that “despite demands from the applicant, the respondents have failed to retract the defamatory statements, tender an apology for the injury caused and to undertake to refrain from publishing any similar statements. In fact, the respondents have continued to make further defamatory statements about SADTU on EUSA’s Facebook page”.

SADTU had a right to its good name and unimpaired reputation, the affidavit said.

“The publication of defamatory statements is contemplated to cause mistrust of SADTU among its members and the community it serves. This comes at a crucial time when the SADTU is advocating for the interests of teachers and learners during the COVID-19 pandemic through calling for the closure of schools and the safe resumption of the academic calendar.

The affidavit added that “the statements are made at the time when SADTU is leading litigation against the State at the Public Sector Bargaining Council and Labour Court for the payment of teachers of the salary increase in terms of the collective agreement”.

It said that SADTU played an important role in society as a trade union. It was, therefore, crucial that it maintains its good name and holding, so that its members and the public retained their confidence in the union.

In his judgment, Honourable Judge D Pillay ruled EUSA’s statements were defamatory and interdicted EUSA from distributing directly or indirectly, by electronic means or otherwise, any defamatory allegations or statements about SADTU or its leaders.

Judge Pillay further ordered EUSA to:

  • Remove the defamatory material or statements relating to SADTU
  • Apologise publicly and unconditionally for the injury caused to SADTU
  • Undertake to refrain from publishing any similar statements in future
  • Post a copy of the court order, the letter of apology and retraction on EUSA’s Facebook and website, and
  • Pay the costs of SADTU’s interim and future applications in this matter.

The return date is set for 21 September wherein EUSA must show cause to the court why the order should not be made permanent.

SADTU’s General Secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said the union felt vindicated by its successful court action against EUSA.

“It is important to hold people accountable for their actions and words. Democracy and freedom are not a licence for harming the reputation of others. Such behaviour is unwarranted and should be challenged. Sadtu is pleased about the outcome and is committed to defending its integrity and reputation.”

ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat

CONTACT:

Deputy General Secretary, Nkosana Dolopi: 082 709 5651
Secretariat Officer, Xolani Fakude: 071 355 1566
Media Officer, Nomusa Cembi: 082 719 5157