The Pretoria High Court has ordered the publishers of Loslyf adult magazine to pay R60 000 in damages to popular Afrikaans singer Juanita du Plessis.

The Afrikaans Loslyf's content is mainly pornographic and it is widely seen as the sleaziest South African product on newsstands (some firms refuse to have it on their shelves).

The damages award for Du Plessis follows a R200 000 defamation claim instituted by her against the magazine after a "doctored" picture of her was published three years ago.

The headline which accompanied the picture was extremely vulgar and stated that she was addicted to oral sex.

This offending material was published in the October 2004 edition of the magazine. At the time Du Plessis obtained an urgent interdict for JT Publishing to withdraw all remaining copies from news stands.

Du Plessis, who has had hits such as Skarumba, did not testify in the trial but submitted an affidavit.

She said she had heard that there was something about her in the magazine. She was extremely shocked when she and her husband bought a copy and saw what it was.

JT Publishing initially defended the action but admitted that what it had printed was not the truth. It, however, later withdrew its defence.

Judge NM Mavundla said in his judgment: "I would have expected the defendant, if he had any sense of decency, to have apologised to the plaintiff for the hurt and humiliation he had occasioned her.

"His failure to do so, coupled with the serious nature of the false allegations and malicious conduct in making them, constitute in my view aggravating features justifying an award of exemplary damages."

Counsel for Du Plessis suggested the only reason for such publicity would have been to boost magazine sales. The judge said this could be the reason, but the court remained in the dark on this aspect in the absence of any reason offered by the defendant.

"I can only conclude that, in the absence of any reason, the publication was uncalled for and malicious," Mavundla said.

He did not hold it against Du Plessis that she did not testify and said he accepted that it was an embarrassing matter for her as she was a well-known singer in the Afrikaans community.

Du Plessis said in her affidavit that she is also a gospel singer and has sold 600 000 CDs since 1998. In 2003 she was the top female music seller in the country.

Mavundla said he went along with the words of another judge in a similar case who said: "I would've expected that anyone with any sense of decency who discovers that he had wrongfully cast so grave and hurtful a slur would make haste to apologise."

In granting the R60 000 in damages, the judge said the conduct of the magazine must be censured with an order of costs as well.

This is not the first time Loslyf has been taken to court by a South African singer.

Local celebrity Amor Vittone, and the magazine reached an out-of-court settlement after "manipulated pictures" and references to her breasts appeared in the December 2004 issue.

At the time Vittone described the pictures as "sick and satanic".