File Photo: Clyde Robinson

Pretoria - A temporary interdict stopping the Higher Education Transformation Network (HETN) from defaming North West University will remain in place, the High Court in Pretoria ordered on Monday.

Judge John Murphy postponed the university's application for a permanent interdict against HETN indefinitely.

This was to allow HETN to file supporting affidavits confirming that its executive director, Sethole Reginald Legoabe, was authorised to file opposing papers on behalf of the network and its directors.

Legoabe handed in a document of a HETN resolution taken on May 23 last year which authorised him to appoint attorneys, but it did not state that he was authorised to act on behalf of the other directors.

The university objected to Legoabe's opposing affidavit and asked for a costs order against him and HETN, saying the network's failure to deal with the authorisation bordered on a misuse of the court process.

Murphy granted the costs order, saying HETN had more than six months to deal with the issue but did nothing.

He said the interim interdict would remain in place until final adjudication in the matter.

The interdict, granted in the High Court in May last year, ordered HETN and its directors to immediately stop publishing any further defamatory statements about the university on any platform.

They were also ordered to remove a defamatory post depicting the university as “racists, Nazis and criminals” from all social media platforms, including HETN's website, Facebook, Twitter and Dropbox.

HETN had issued a series of statements since March last year lashing out at NWU's handling of affairs and in May published a Facebook post bearing swastikas and calling on followers to say “no to racist victimisations” and to join a march to NWU's Potchefstroom campus.

In documents before court, NWU's senior legal adviser Werner Coetzee said HETN had embarked on a campaign to cast the university in a bad light and made defamatory statements about the institution and its vice-chancellor, Theuns Eloff.

Coetzee said the university denied allegations of racism, victimisation or subscribing to Nazi principles and the false allegations were harming the university's reputation.

Legoabe said HETN would “fight to the bitter end” against the university's attempt to silence them.

“The network will be appealing the cost order as we believe that poor communities and their organs of civil society should not be afraid from participating in legal processes and to raise pertinent issues which are in the interests of a democratic South African society and national importance due to the fear of punitive legal costs and legal executions,” he said in a statement.

He described the cost order as a “temporary setback for freedom of speech” and said he was confident of a legal victory.

“It is further our opinion that the unfortunate legal attempt to silence the network is taking place with the background support of Higher Education South Africa (HESA).”

Legoabe said no interdict could bury the truth.