The plaintiff in the matter is the then Mister of Correctional Services Ngconde Balfour and the defendant is Paul Theron a medical practitioner who was employed at Pollsmoor Prison at the time. Dr Theron had been suspended after speaking out about the horrific health conditions at the prison and stating that the suspension of the senior nurse was victimisation of the part of the minister. Dr Theron was being sued for R500 000 in a defamation claim.
FXI represented the defendant in the matter and noted an exception with the plaintiffs particulars of claim that the the minister does not have locus standi as he is not entitled to sue for defamation in his representative capacity, and should be that of his personal capacity. The plaintiff also failed to plead when, where, by whom, to whom and by what means the alleged defamatory statements are alleged to have been made. The plaintiff accordingly filed amended particulars of claim. The plaintiff and defendant however thereafter entered in to a settlement agreement, the defendant apologised which the plaintiff unreservedly accepted and accordingly withdrew the defamation claim.
This case stood to highlight the threats against whistle-blowers. We have laws that are meant to protect and promote whistle-blowers and the defamation suits against individuals act as a means to stifle the efforts of truth and the right to freedom of expression. Should this case have proceeded it is hoped that the courts would have viewed the merits of the case and found in favour of the defendant and his right to freedom of expression.