Home South African Businessman scores early victory in R10m defamation lawsuit against journalist, publisher

Businessman scores early victory in R10m defamation lawsuit against journalist, publisher

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defamation lawsuit set to go ahead after KwaZulu-Natal High Court finds no merit in separating issues

Journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh and his publishers Penguin Random House SA were unsuccessful in their bid to have the KwaZulu-Natal High Court determine whether certain statements against businessman Vikash Narsai and his company Nexor 312 in his book Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture were defamatory before the R10 million defamation lawsuit they are facing. Picture: Courtney Africa/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

DURBAN-based businessman Vikash Narsai and his company Nexor 312 have won the first round of their R10 million defamation lawsuit against journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh and his publishers, Penguin Random House SA.

Narsai and Nexor 312 are each suing Myburgh and Penguin Random House SA for R5m for defamatory details published in his 2019 book, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture.

They are unhappy with the contents of chapter 16 of the book, which is titled ‘Zuma’s VredeThank you-fee”’ and claim that various statements allege corrupt and dishonest activities by them in their involvement in lucrative government contracts.

Narsai and Nexor 312 identified 12 specific portions of the chapter, which they claim are defamatory of them.

According to Narsai and his firm, these statements were intended to convey that they were participants in corrupt activities, paid bribes to secure access to tender work, unlawfully obtained work outside of lawful tender processes by way of corrupting government officials and were participants in schemes to defraud the government through siphoning-off funds intended for housing projects for the benefit of corrupt government officials and themselves.

In November 2020, Myburgh and Penguin Random House SA applied to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court to have certain issues to be determined separately from the others in the trial.

The issues were whether the contents of the chapter are defamatory to Narsai and Nexor 312 and, if so, in what respects the chapter and the statements outlined by the businessman and his company in their particulars of claim are defamatory of them.

Both Narsai and Nexor 312 opposed the application.

On Monday, Judge Graham Lopes dismissed Myburgh and Penguin Random House SA’s application but ordered that all questions of costs be reserved for decision by the court hearing the defamation action.

”In this matter, there seems no merit in determining at the outset whether the twelve statements (and, indeed, any others, alleged to reflect the chapter within the context of the book) are defamatory,” the judge found.

Judge Lopes said if some of the 12 allegations of defamation are dealt with in a separated issues hearing, the separation will not have achieved the object of shortening the trial but would result in two hearings instead of one, and therefore, both those hearings could be protracted.

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