Whether it is illegal to accuse a cabinet minister of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œsleeping her way to the topÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â is the subject of a landmark case before the Supreme Court of Appeal, writes Khadidja Bradlow in The Times.
The court will today hear argument on whether the legal principle of criminal defamation should be retained or scrapped.
In civil law, a finding of crimen injuria would involve financial compensation, but criminal defamation could result in a fine or a jail term.
The case is being brought by the Legal Aid BoardÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s impact litigation unit on behalf of Kerr Hoho, a researcher for the Eastern Cape legislature.
Hoho authored the notorious Father Punch satirical pamphlets that scandalised the Eastern Cape legislature six years ago. The pamphlets, tucked beneath the doors of the legislature offices every month for just over a year, gained notoriety for their claims of corruption, spousal abuse and even murder levelled against senior legislature members and cabinet ministers.
Hoho was charged in the Bisho High Court with 23 counts of criminal defamation. He was accused of ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œadversely affecting the effective governing of Eastern CapeÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â through his gossip pamphlets.
During the trial, the Sunday Times reported that among the sensational allegations made in ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œFather PunchÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â was that Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang had used her ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œsexual prowessÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â to secure a cabinet position. It did not state with whom.
Hoho also lashed out at Home Affairs Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa- Nqakula, accusing her of using ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œher big buttocks, shoulders and head as a step-leather [sic] for the rise of her husbandÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â.
Tshabalala-Msimang and Mapisa-Nqakula were complainants and state witnesses in the case.
The high profiles of some of the victims of HohoÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s poison pen meant that the top brass in law enforcement were roped in to assist with the investigation, including then national director of public prosecutions Bulelani Ngcuka.
The lower court found Hoho guilty on all but one of the counts ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â‚¬Â sentencing him to three yearsÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢ imprisonment, suspended for five years, and three years of correctional supervision.
At the time of sentencing, he was offered the option of a sentence reduction if he apologised to his victims. Hoho refused.
Click here to read the full report, posted on The Times's website.