Appeal Decision: Inkatha Freedom Party vs City Press

Thu, Jan 13, 2022


In the matter between:

Inkatha Freedom Party                                                                                           Applicant


City Press                                                                                                            Respondent

Matter No: 9203/08/2021


1. The applicant is Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP); the respondent is City Press. The applicant applies for leave to appeal the Ruling by the Acting Ombud dated 7 September 2021. The Ruling was on a complaint lodged by the applicant in respect of an article published by the respondent on 25 July 2021 with the headline “Another Inferno in the Making”. The article was about the upheaval and violence that occurred in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng following the taking into custody of former President Zuma.

2. I should point out that there is another matter, complaint 9204/08/2021 in which the complainant is Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. That complaint was lodged against the same article the IFP is complaining about. Like in the Prince Buthelezi matter, the Acting Ombud dismissed the IFP’s complaint, which was why the party brought this application. The complaints in the two matters were themselves couched in similar language (not surprising as they both complain about the same article and also given the complainants’ relationship); in turn, the Acting Ombud, in dealing with the two matters, also adopted the same approach and analysis. There is no reason why I should not do the same. In the process, there will be similarities in the analyses and reasonings – in some instances word for word – when dealing with the two matters; that is what the parties did in both matters and so too the Acting Ombud to a large measure. I am therefore not the author of repetition; I found it. I will be doing so in the process of determining whether or not the applicant has reasonable prospects of success on appeal, without which the application would not succeed.

3. Mr Hlabisa, President of the IFP, complains in particular about the following part of the article: “A huge cause of events of that tragic week was the re-emergence of a dangerous strain of Zulu nationalism that has always resided in the Inkatha Freedom Party and that has now found ground in the ANC.” As already said, this was also the basis of the complaint by Prince Buthelezi in the other matter; hence, as I have just said, I hereby adopt and repeat what I said in the complaint by Prince Buthelezi.

4. The Acting Ombud went into a thorough analysis of the above statement in relation to the arguments raised by the parties. I need not go into that exercise again; I will only sum up the points on which the Ruling rests. I deal with the pertinent points as raised and dealt with in the Ruling.

4.1 Did the editorial blame Zulus (or the Zulu nation) for the civil unrest? The Acting Ombud’s answer was a qualified “yes” and “no”. He reckoned that Zulu nationalism was not given as “the” cause of the unrest; there were other causes; that as a fact some Zulus took part; but does not say all Zulus did so; also, that other people who were not Zulus took part. Mr Makhanya was entitled to his comment, which was protected under clause 7 of the Code.

4.2 Was it suggested that Zulu nationalism could potentially endanger the country’s stability? Here too the Ruling gave a qualified “yes” and “no” simply because Mr Makhanya referred only to a particular strain of Zulu nationalism (as opposed to the whole of Zulu nationalism as the complaint suggested).

4.3 The issue of hate speech: The Ruling was correct to point out that what was prohibited was an article with an intention to incite violence. The article was in fact issuing a warning against violence.

5. I do not find fault with the way the Acting Ombud dealt with the matter; accordingly, application has no reasonable prospects of success, and therefore fails.

Dated this 3rd day of December 2021

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel