In a defamation dispute between two politicians (the former and the subsequent mayor of Johannesburg) the incumbent mayor sued for defamation damages for remarks about him. At the same time he applied for a court interdict ordering the respondent to retract the offending remarks, to refrain from repeating them, and to issue an unconditional apology with the widest possible publication. The Supreme Court of Appeal refused the interdict because the respondent might possibly succeed in his defence of justification which was a matter to be decided by the trial court.

There was also no apprehension of harm insofar as there was no evidence that the respondent had any intention of harming the applicant’s good name and reputation in the future. There was also no allegation why an award of damages for defamation would not be sufficient to vindicate the applicant’s right to his good name and reputation.

An interdict of this nature impinges on the constitutionally protected right to freedom of speech.  Such orders are seldom granted where there is a right to claim damages and an anticipatory ban on publication of defamatory matter is not necessary.

This is all a bit strange because the alleged defamation took place in August 2016 and the matter came before the Supreme Court of Appeal in March 2020 by which time the defamation action could itself have been heard.

The case is Tau v Mashaba and others.