ECHO (PTY) LIMITED
Case No. 1717/1998
Plaintiff B.G. Simelane
Defendants Adv. Kunny
was an action in which the plaintiff sued the defendant for damages.
The amount claimed is far more than can be justified in the present
claim is against the newspaper and its officers who are said to have
defamed the applicant by an article in the Times of Swaziland, which
appeared on the 2nd of June 1998. The words of which the plaintiff
complains are a bold headline which appears on the front page of the
newspaper:- "T.V. MTETWA IS DISMISSED FROM TISUKA".
words caused Mr. Mtetwa great annoyance to say the least when he read
them. He made it quite clear when testifying that his complaint
centred on the use of the word "DISMISSED".
Mtetwa is obviously a man of standing in Swaziland. He enjoys the
confidence of His Majesty; and is entrusted with Royal Duties. He is
an upright and honourable person. This cannot be taken away from him.
I treat him as such and I have no doubt that he in fact was disturbed
at his severance being described as a dismissal. The matter does not
end there and the perceived insult is not necessarily defamatory.
What he has to show to succeed in this action is that right thinking
people who may read this article could think ill of him, and that he
may be brought into "hatred, ridicule or contempt" as was
said in an ancient case.
does not confine oneself to the headline when reading a newspaper
article. The question for decision is whether a reasonable person
reading the article as a whole would think less of Mr. Mtetwa by
reason of what was said therein.
article it must be noted follows immediately on the headline, which
is the cause of complaint. Immediately there under albeit in letters
somewhat less bold it
say for all to see that "inside sources say the reason (for the
dismissal) could be the fact that he has reached the retirement age".
This goes a long way to removing any sting from the word "DISMISSED".
one carries on to read the article as a whole it is quite clear that
if the Plaintiff could properly be said to have been dismissed, he
was not dismissed for any wrongdoing on his part. The article is
quite specific in one of its sentences, which reads, "Tisuka
Management dismissed speculation that Mtetwa was dismissed for any
wrong doings." No one who reads the article in its entirety,
could reasonably be induced to think ill of the plaintiff. The
article ascribes no misconduct to him. There is not the slightest
hint of impropriety on his part.
word "DISMISSED" could have pejorative meaning. But on the
other hand there are many innocent connotations to the word
"DISMISSED". In its ordinary sense it is neutral and does
not reflect in any way on the character of a person who is being
dismissed. Although argument was presented and it was said that the
word "DISMISSED" is used in many senses for instance for a
batsman at cricket being dismissed, or that soldiers are dismissed
from parade or matter being dismissed from your mind. All these
various uses of the word were brought to my attention. But I think it
is correct as the Plaintiff's attorney said that "DISMISSED"
must be considered in a work situation.
the newspaper makes it quite clear that the dismissal was very
possibly because he had reached the retiring age, this is not a word,
which one would normally use in that sense. The word DISMISS has the
implication of a unilateral act on the part of the employer, the
employee being passive. The word most often connotes the employee, in
colloquial terms, being "fired".
even taking this into consideration, reading the article as a whole I
cannot find that the plaintiff has been defamed. There is nothing in
the article that connotes any dishonour in his dismissal. The facts
that came before the court indicated that if anything the Board of
Tisuka takaNgwane acted incorrectly. The word "DISMISSED"
can connote both a fair and an unfair dismissal and there is nothing
in the article as a whole, which could in anyway suggest or impinge
adversely upon the
of Mr. Mtetwa. As I say he may have felt insulted but a reasonable
person reading the article, as a whole could not reasonably believe
that Mr. Mtetwa had done anything wrong.
action must fail and the Plaintiff's claim is dismissed with costs
including counsel's fee, the employment of counsel being certified in
terms of rule 68.