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10 million Pula windfall for defamation is ludicrous

PRIMA FACIE

This past week we learnt from a newspaper report that a famed medical doctor had received a Ten Million windfall as settlement for defamation. This also allegedly came with some side perks. We also learnt that a wealthy business man had sued the Attorney General for Millions of Pula. These of course are allegations reported in the media. If they are true they will be a source of great concern.


This animal called defamation seems like a gold mine. Let us examine it. The concept of defamation under Customary law is known as “go senya leina”.It is often lumped together with the use of abusive language. As a result it is not clearly defined. Isaac Schapera in his book A Handbook of Tswana Law and Custom states that the punishment for such an offence is either a thrashing, a fine of a goat, sheep or an ox. He further states that accusations made in good faith to a person in authority are accepted as a defence, thus not punishable.


From the above discussion it is evident that under customary law compensation for defamation was not meant to enrich the offended person. It was intended to “cleanse” his or her name. Obviously this took into consideration the need not to stifle freedom of expression. Fast forward to the received law. Under Roman Dutch law defamation is well defined.


In the old case of Karim v Weterings the then Chief Justice Aguda defined defamation in the following terms “A defamatory statement is one calculated to lower the plaintiff in the estimation of right-thinking men or cause him to be shunned or avoided, or to expose him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to convey an imputation on him disparaging him or injurious to him in his office, profession, calling or trade”


The measure of damages to be awarded for defamation was articulated crisply by the Late Justice Chatikobo in Dibotelo V Sechele and others. An interesting feature of this case is that the current Chief Justice was the Plaintiff and the candidate judge(if that comes to fruition) Omphemetse Motumise represented the defendants.


Dibotelo had sued for defamation following publication of statements to the effect that he had misappropriated his client’s money. It turned out that the statements were untrue as at the alleged period he was already a serving judge. Justice Chatikobo was at pains to explain that freedom of expression should not be whittled down through damages for defamation.


He expressed himself thus “The problem which stares me in the face is how best to award damages so as to solace the plaintiff's wounded feelings without penalising the defendants for their wrongdoing. I bear in mind that the plaintiff essentially seeks the vindication of his reputation by claiming damages, the underlying assumption being that an award of damages will vindicate the plaintiff in the eyes of the public and will serve as conciliation to him for the wrong done to him.

 

I am anxious not to create the impression that the courts, by their protection of a person's right to unsullied reputation unwittingly whittle down the press's freedom of speech. The best way to disabuse all and sundry of such perceptions is no doubt to recall the elementary concept upon which our law of defamation is founded.”


The Judge then proceeded in the following manner “ I must hasten to state that I consider the sum of P5,000,000.00 claimed by the plaintiff to be way out of line with any comparable claims in this jurisdiction or elsewhere. At the same time the sum of P40,000.00 once offered by  the defendants is far too low to merit consideration. I consider an award in the region of P300,000.00 to be more appropriate. I will have to scale this amount down to give effect to the fact that an apology has been made.”


A claim for P5,000,000.00 was characterised as being way out of line. It is inconceivable that any person could go before a Court of law in our country and be awarded P 10,000,000.00.The Court of Appeal has also provided a clear guide on how assessment of damages in defamation cases has to be carried out.


Justice Foxcroft in Tibone v Tsodilo stated the following words “The first step in reaching an appropriate award is to balance the competing considerations of freedom of speech and public interest on the one hand, and the right to individual dignity on the other. This does not appear to have been done in this case.

 

Once the learned judge a quo correctly held that the claimed sum of P3 million was ridiculously high he turned to the case ofDibotelo v Sechele and Others [2001] 2 B.L.R. 588 for his yardstick. Deducting P50 000 from the notional figure of P300 000 (which he had considered awarding) because there had been an apology in that matter, Chatikobo J awarded P250 000 to the plaintiff. Allowing then for inflation, and the 'obvious parallels' between that case where a judge had been defamed and the Cabinet Minister in casu, the learned judge a quo awarded the sum of P400 000 to the respondent.


What then would be the basis for a settlement of Ten million pula? What would be the basis for a claim amounting to thirty million pula? These questions must exercise the minds of those who enter into ridiculous settlements. It equally applies to those who appear before Courts of law and (to use borrowed language) aim for the stars.

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The Daring Dozen at Bari

8th December 2020
JEFF---Batswana-smoke-unit

Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.

The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.

Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.

At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.

Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.

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A Strong Marriage Bond Needs Two

8th December 2020

Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).

This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.

In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.

Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?

Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.

POSITIVITY
Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.

“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)

We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”

UNDERSTANDING

Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.

Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be.  You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”

COMMITMENT

Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.

When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.

ACCEPTANCE

Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.

However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.”
“Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)

COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT

Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.

It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.

Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.

Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.

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Chronic Joblessness: How to Help Curtail it

30th November 2020
Motswana woman

The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.

It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.

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