Durban - A former Hilton College prefect and sportsman has secured an interdict against a fellow past pupil of the top KwaZulu-Natal school, stopping him from spreading “lies” among the school’s old-boy network that he is a fraudster and a thief.
Pretoria High Court Judge Tati Makgoka has granted the former prefect an interdict stopping the Hilton old boy from publishing any further defamatory statements about him, saying it was clear that he (the former pupil) was intent on continuing with his smear campaign.
In a judgment handed down last week, the judge said the dispute between the two arose because the former pupil’s son, also a former Hilton boy who now lived in France, had invested R650 000 in a business run by the former prefect which had failed two years ago.
While the former pupil claimed facts had been “misrepresented” to his son, the former prefect claimed it was just “an unfortunate business venture which went awry”.
In April, the former pupil contacted a friend and business associate of the former prefect, and warned him not to get involved in business with the former prefect, because he had “ripped off his son”.
He also contacted the former prefect’s mother, conveying the same thing and implying that she should pay back his son, or he would “ruin her son’s name and life”, specifically by contacting the alumni of Hilton College.
In his affidavit before the court, the former prefect said many Hilton old boys were captains of industry and they relied on one another in business dealings.
Last month, the former pupil contacted the former prefect’s attorney, warning him that he might never pay his fees.
“He said he contacted others to collect evidence to expose the fraud. He said he had contacted Hilton to request details of former pupils, but he denied that this was anything to do with the former prefect,” the judge said.
But the next day he called the attorney again and made it clear that his contact with the alumni was about the former prefect.
The attorney asked for an undertaking from the former pupil that he would not make defamatory statements, specifically in an e-mail to the school’s alumni, but he refused to give one and the court application was launched.
In opposing the application, the former pupil said he had no intention to defame and relied on his constitutional right of freedom of expression.
All he wished was to investigate the former prefect’s business dealings with a view to possibly instituting legal action against him in future.
The judge said while he had a right to do this, he had no right to defame and it was clear he intended to “continue with his tirade”.
“Whatever his gripe is following the failed business transaction, he does not have the right to call (the former prefect) a dishonest person. Only a proper forum such as a court of law has the power to make such findings. No one is entitled to take the law into their own hands,” the judge said, granting the final interdict.