Appeal Decision: Prince Mangosuthu vs City Press

Thu, Jan 13, 2022


In the matter between:

Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi                                                                              Applicant


City Press                                                                                                            Respondent

Matter No: 9205/08/2021


1. Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi (applicant) lodged a complaint against City Press (respondent) objecting against what appeared in the “Siyahleba” column of the 25 July 2021 edition of the respondent. The sub-headline was “Moses my mentor”. The content reflected some adverse comments by the public, poking fun, in the process, of the applicant’s assertion that he was a person of peace and against violence. There was also a picture of the applicant, referred to as “Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi”. There were really two complaints by the applicant. First that the satirical peace (“Siyahleba”) gave credence to a mischievous Facebook remark by someone, which incorrectly conveyed that the Prince applauded the infamous violence that took place in Phoenix during the July unrest. The second complaint was that the respondent referred to him as “chief”, an appellation which he argues is derogatory; it is, he argues, a colonial denigratory appellation which should not be used. A traditional leader should be referred to instead as “Inkosi” or “Kgosi.

2. In his Ruling dated 7 September 2021, the Acting Press Ombud dismissed the complaints. The applicant now seeks leave to appeal the Ruling. For the application to succeed, the applicant must show reasonable prospects of success before the Appeals Panel, and this is what I must now assess.

Regarding the complaint that the satirical peace has reinforced the Facebook defamatory remark.

3. It appeared that the applicant had opened a criminal case against the person who posted the Facebook message. Accordingly, the Acting Ombud reasoned, correctly, that he could not entertain the matter.

Referring to the applicant as “Chief”

4. In supporting his case, the applicant delved into some history, including his previous objections against the use of that appellation not only in relation to him, but also in relation to other traditional leaders. In its response, the respondent argued that the appellation had been extensively used in the past, in relation to the applicant as well; instances were cited, including in the applicant’s biography. The Acting Ombud found that the word was used in a comment that was protected under clause 7.2 of the Press Code, and expressed himself as follows: “I accept that [Prince] Buthelezi feels insulted by the use of the word “chief”, but at the same time I need to take the nature of the piece into consideration – it was satire. Mocking or teasing is the nature of the beast …. I do not have enough ground to find malice on the part of the newspaper.” Indeed it would be difficult to infer malice in a satire. But here is also my two cent’s worth: I do not think that it is within the terrain of the Press Code to decree that the appellation “chief” should not be used; in effect, by sanctioning the respondent for using it, we would be prohibiting its use in this country. I doubt whether the Press Council has that jurisdiction, especially as the appellation is still being used in many places throughout the country; anyway, as I say, this is just an aside.

5. For the reasons given by the Acting Press Ombud and those above, I hold hat the appeal would have no prospects of success; accordingly, the application is dismissed.

Dated this 3rd day of December 2021

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chair, Appeals Panel