Mashaba gets nod in lawsuit

Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba
Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba
Image: Sunday Times

Statements made by the former mayor of Johannesburg, Parks Tau‚ in 2016 about current mayor Herman Mashaba were defamatory, the high court in the city ruled on Friday.

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 the funeral of an ANC councillor 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, he said his statement had been in response to one 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 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.

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

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 found that Tau’s statement that “in fact if it were up to [Mashaba] he would not want to be black” had also been defamatory.