Just Share’s Board of Directors welcomes the important High Court judgement handed down yesterday in relation to the SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) brought by Australian mining company Mineral Commodities Ltd (MRC), against six South African environmental justice and community activists. One of the six defendants is Just Share’s Executive Director, Tracey Davies.
Tracey was working as an attorney at the Centre for Environmental Rights when she was sued for defamation by MRC, for criticising the environmental impacts and legal compliance of its Tormin mineral sands mine on the West Coast of South Africa. Her comments were made during a lecture at the University of Cape Town’s Summer School in early 2017.
In her judgement, Deputy Judge President Patricia Goliath found that the slew of defamation lawsuits filed by MRC and its local subsidiary against the defendants – all of whom are either environmental justice and community activists or public interest lawyers – is an abuse of the legal process. The court agreed with the defendants in stating that:
Corporations should not be allowed to weaponise our legal system against the ordinary citizen and activists in order to intimidate and silence them.
Dugan Fraser, Chair of the Just Share Board, says: “Corporates like MRC use SLAPP suits – which are notoriously drawn out and expensive legal battles – with the intention to intimidate people who exercise their constitutional rights. This judgement is an extremely important victory for advocacy and activism in the public interest. It sends a clear message that freedom of speech on matters of public interest will be proudly defended by our courts.”