Transformation body interdicted

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Afriforum lawyer Willie Spies. File photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Pretoria - The High Court in Pretoria granted an interim interdict on Wednesday preventing the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) from defaming AfriForum attorney Willie Spies.

Judge Cynthia Pretorius granted the interim order in terms of a settlement reached between Spies and HETN.

Spies's application for a final interdict against HETN was indefinitely postponed and would be heard at a later stage, once further affidavits had been filed in the application.

The court order declared that HETN's allegations about Spies' conduct as a university student between 1990 and 1994 were defamatory.

HETN and three of its members were interdicted from making any further defamatory allegations about Spies and were ordered to remove the allegations about Spies from their website.

Pretorius also turned down HETN's application for her recusal, and said she could not find any factual basis on which a reasonable, objective person could conclude that she would not be impartial.

HETN has lodged a case in the Equality Court against the University of Pretoria, Tuks Alumni and Spies, claiming black alumni were being excluded from Tuks Alumni.

They claimed Pretorius, as a University of Pretoria graduate, was a member of Tuks Alumni and was “already prejudiced against their attempts to include the participation of black alumni” in the body.

Spies, in turn, lodged an urgent high court application against HETN claiming it had embarked on a public campaign aimed at defaming him and harming his reputation.

HETN has condemned Spies's appointment as chairman of the Tuks Alumni Board, and has claimed he was responsible for the deliberate exclusion of black alumni from its management structures.

It has also accused him of humiliating, excluding and abusing black students at the Sonop men's hostel, and of being involved in the violent disruption of meetings by former president Nelson Mandela and former minister Roelf Meyer in the 1990s.

Spies alleged HETN was deliberately and wrongfully sending false information about him into the world which portrayed him as a racist, violent and lawless person.

HETN wrote a number of letters to High Court in Pretoria Judge President Dunstan Mlambo requesting Pretorius' removal from the application and the appointment of an “objective judge”.

In one of its letters, HETN alleged that AfriForum's legal victories in the High Court in Pretoria had led it to the assumption that there was judicial sympathy among white judges for the AfriForum-allied Vereniging van Regslui vir Afrikaans (VRA).

They issued a press statement condemning Pretorius's “unfair, subjective conduct” before the case was even heard.

Pretorius said she graduated from Tuks in the 1970s and had not participated in any of the university's activities for the past 43

years.

She said judicial officers had a duty to sit in cases where they were not disqualified.

“Judges do not choose their cases and litigants do not choose their judges... I cannot understand how the respondents can issue a press statement setting out untruths as facts without any substantiation.

“It is preposterous and scandalous to make these allegations against certain white judges without any substantiation,” she said.

HETN executive director Reginald Legoabe said the organisation would comply with the court order, but that it fully stood by its assertions about Pretorius.

“She still needs to recuse herself, but we accept her judgment as a judge,” he said. - Sapa


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