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Johannesburg - The ANC Youth League (ANCYL) and its former spokesman Floyd Shivambu have 14 days to apologise to Saturday Star news editor Kashiefa Ajam.
Unless they do, the two will have to pay Ajam and Independent Newspapers (now Sekunjalo Independent) R175 000 each for a defamation case that has dragged on for three-and-a-half years.
Acting Judge Karen Foulkes-Jones granted advocate Nick Ferreira, assisted by Webber Wentzel attorney Greg Palmer, a default judgment order in the Johannesburg High Court on Thursday.
Ferreira argued that there was provision for payment of the money if no apology was made to prevent the ANCYL and Shivambu - who is now Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) spokesman - making “a farce of the law”.
The matter arose in January 2010 when Shivambu said in a statement on Google groups that Ajam, a practising Muslim, was “a drunkard”.
This followed a lead story Ajam wrote for the Saturday Star, claiming links between the ANCYL and alcohol brands.
Shivambu also accused the Saturday Star and Independent Newspapers of deliberately publishing falsehoods to promote the use of alcohol.
Ajam and the newspaper company want a retraction and apology from the ANCYL and Shivambu within two weeks.
The two have previously failed to comply with court orders related to the long-running defamation case. They will now have to pay damages totalling R350 000 if they do not apologise and retract the statement.
The allegation that Ajam is “a drunkard” was particularly offensive as Muslim teachings forbid the use of alcohol.
Ajam said on Thursday: “I am relieved it’s over and I am glad Shivambu and the ANCYL have finally been taken to task over it.”
Her editor, Cecilia Russell, agreed.
“It’s clear that politicians need to treat journalists with respect and cannot go around impugning their reputations without consequences.
“It’s an important order because, often, reporters choose to ignore these things, but in this case, the damage to a reputation by this comment was unacceptable.”
Shivambu said on Thursday that he was not aware of the judgment, “but if that is the directive, I have no problem”.
“I have no problem withdrawing some of the things I said when I was with the ANCYL. That was youthful exuberance. I am now involved in much more serious business with the EFF.”
The ANCYL and Shivambu were ordered to pay costs.