On Wednesday, two attorneys at the Centre for Environmental Rights (CER) were served with a summons by an Australian mining company operating on the West Coast. The attorneys are Tracey Davies and Christine Reddell. Community activist Davine Cloete was served a summons two weeks ago.
The mining company, Mineral Sand Resources (MSR), a subsidiary of Mineral Commodities Limited, is suing the attorneys and activist for defamation of the company and its director, Zamile Qunya.
“Here is a message to corporates who think they can use lawsuits and other intimidation tactics to silence the voices of activists: when you threaten one of us, you threaten all of us,” said Melissa Fourie, Executive Director of CER. “We will fight back, we will continue to investigate corporate misdeeds, and we will rally support from partners – but most of all, we will not be silenced.”
Standing in support of Davies and Reddell at the serving of the summons was a representative from Right2Know and Stephen Law, Executive Director of the Environmental Monitoring Group.
In a media statement, CER referred to the defamation case as a “SLAPP” suit – a strategic lawsuit against public participation.
The defamatory comments are alleged to have occurred during speeches at the University of Cape Town’s Summer School in January. Reddell, Davies, and Cloete were presenting information about MSR’s Tormin mineral sands mine operation which they said was “environmentally destructive”.
“We’re not disputing that we said it, we’re disputing that it was defamatory,” said CER representatives. “We will strongly defend the claims. We have the support of the social justice sector in South Africa.”
“MSR has claimed R250,000 in damages from each of our attorneys, and a further R750,000 from Cloete,” CER states on its website.
We must take cognisance that this mining company, the aggressor, has very deep pockets and plenty of resources at their disposal.
Given the fact that litigation is a costly, protracted and unbelievably stressful and challenging process, the situation requires extraordinary and brave measures.
I suggest that the respondents of these spurious claims formulate clear affidavits setting out the criminal elements and file charges of "Attempt of Theft under False Pretences " against the mining company as well as against their attorneys who are aiding and abetting them, as the claims against them amounts to nothing less than extortion.
Yes, the police will not know what to do but SAPS were given a directive that 'The Customer is Always King". They are therefor obliged to register the complaints and charge those parties as the Mining Company and their attorneys are abusing the legal system for their own ends.
Be brave and with reason you'll make headway.
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