Local hair and skincare brand wins legal battle against social media influencer

Sonto Pooe, the brainchild behind Native Child's plant-based hair products. Picture: Supplied.

Sonto Pooe, the brainchild behind Native Child's plant-based hair products. Picture: Supplied.

Published Dec 14, 2023


South African hair brand Native Child has won its case against social media influencer, Mary Oluwatobiloba Akinwale.

In a court judgment released by the High Court of South Africa, it is stated that Akinwale, who has 108 000 social media followers across Instagram, TikTok and X, started posting defamatory statements about Sonto Pooe, the founder of Native Child, and her brand.

Akinwale accused Pooe of inter alia, exploitation and unethical business practices.

The social media controversy, which started on November 17, went on for almost three weeks. It didn’t end there, the influencer also encouraged her followers to attack the founder of Native Child.

“According to the applicant (Pooe), since the publication of the defamatory posts in the space of less than three weeks, the applicant has endured further defamation and harassment by more than 500 social media users on the applicant’s social media pages; on their major retail client’s social media pages; by emails directed at the applicant and in online Google reviews – all based on the respondent’s defamatory statements,” read the high court judgement.

As a result, Pooe’s business suffered an 80% decline in revenue over the Black Friday period (compared with revenue achieved in previous years over the same period) and she has experienced a significant dip in product purchase orders from one of their major retail clients.

According to the high court ruling, Akinwale admitted to posting on social media pages and inviting her followers to join her cause.

However, she maintains that what she said was not defamatory; she said it was true. The applicant has not paid the company’s ambassadors as per her discussions with them. She said she was willing to apologise though.

Anikwale was instructed to remove all the posts she made about Pooe, post a video apologising to Pooe, write an apology and cover all legal costs.

She has since deleted her social media accounts.

Read the full judgement here.