Appeal Decision: Daily Maverick vs Sorisha Naidoo


Thu, Dec 2, 2021

In the matter between:

Daily Maverick                                                                                                          Applicant

and

Sorisha Naidoo                                                                                                   Respondent

Matter No: 9033/07/2021

DECISION ON APPLICATION FOR LEAVE TO APPEAL

  1. Ms Sorisha Naidoo (respondent) brought a complaint against Daily Maverick (applicant) in connection with an article by the applicant published on 28 June 2021 headlined “Tarina Patel, Sorisha Naidoo and Nonkanyiso Conco – The Real Housewives of State Capture”. The article dubbed the three women as the real housewives of State Capture. The three starred in the television series, “The Real Housewives of Durban”. The reader was reminded that Mr Vivian Reddy, respondent’s husband, was a rich Durban businessperson who had benefitted from his relationship with former President Zuma and the African National Congress and that he was awarded big tenders. The complaint was adjudicated by the Acting Press Ombud. In his Ruling, dated 9 September 2021, the Ombud accurately captured the complaint as follows:

1.1      Ms Sorisha Naidoo complains that the:

  • headline:
  • was intentionally misleading and created an unwarranted negative perception of her;
  • unfairly and incorrectly associated her with state capture and;
  • intended to, or at least had the effect of, doing harm to her; and
  • article made a remark that was derogatory to both her and her husband, Vivian Reddy (insinuating that she had married him for his money) and adds that the reportage has caused them reputational harm.

1.2       She asks for a retraction or a correction, as well as for an apology.”

  1. In its response to the complaint about the headline, the applicant says that it was a wordplay relating to the television show in which the respondent featured, and that the husbands of the three benefitted from certain government deals. Reference was made to the extent to which her husband, Mr Reddy, benefited. Regarding the complaint that respondent was a “gold digger”, the applicant’s response was that that was said tongue-in-cheek and would be understood as such by a reader; moreover, the rest of the article removed any negative connotation by inter alia stating that respondent was devoted to Mr Reddy.
  2. In his Ruling, the Ombud dismissed the complaint relating to the headline. The complaint relating to the respondent being a “gold digger” was upheld; the applicant was directed to apologize to the respondent for unfairly implying that she had married Mr Reddy for his money, thus tarnishing her dignity and reputation in the process. The applicant seeks leave to appeal the Ruling. The application is opposed by the respondent; firstly, on the ground that the application was filed out of time, and, secondly, that it in any case lacked merit.
  3. The Ombud’s Ruling was conveyed to the parties on 9 September 2021. I am advised that on the same day, applicant communicated its intention to appeal. The application for leave to appeal was however, filed on the evening of 23 September 2021, which was three days out of time, the final date having been 20 September 2021; that is, seven days after receipt of the Ruling. The application was out of time with a mere three days. The problem is, however, that there is no application for the condonation of the late filing of the application. My hands are therefore tied because prescribed procedures must be followed. That does not mean that I did not look at the merits; I did. Even if the application was filed in time, I would have dismissed it for lack of prospects of success. In this respect, I refer to the reasons given by the Ombud, with which I fully agree. In its application for leave to appeal, the applicant misses the point: The Code requires that in the event the article is a comment, it must be presented in a manner that it appears “clearly” to be a comment; in other words, where there is doubt whether it is a comment or not, protection is not given. The article fails to be a clear comment. The application would therefore show no prospects of success on appeal and therefore fall to be dismissed, even if it had been filed in time or condonation granted (which condonation cannot be given as there is no application for it to start with).
  4. The application is therefore dismissed.

Dated this 1st day of December 2021

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel