What is a SLAPP Suit?
SLAPP suits, or “strategic litigation against public participation” are a type of litigation which has or can be assumed to have a chilling effect on the rights and ability of people to participate in public debate over matters of public interest and concern.
An Australian mining company, Mineral Resources Commodities Ltd (MRC) is using SLAPP suits to intimidate environmentalists and lawyers who have criticised the company, suing them for defamation in the amount of R9,25 million. These defamation suits are based on comments made by individuals critical of MRC and its subsidiaries’ operations in South Africa, in particular at its Tormin operation – including statements made by two attorneys then employed by the Centre for Environmental Rights at a lecture at the University of Cape Town Summer School. These SLAPP suits are aimed at silencing criticism in a way that undermine Constitutional rights of freedom of speech, freedom of the media, and academic freedom.
MRC is most well-known for its continued pressure to mine in Xolobeni in the Eastern Cape, despite longstanding resistance by mining-affected communities in the area. The conflict there, and the shocking assassination of Bazooka Rhadebe for which no suspect has yet been arrested, have been the subject of intense media coverage and debate, both here and internationally.
Why is civil society standing together to resist Corporate Intimidation and Bullying?
Civil society is concerned about these SLAPP suits because they involve the vexatious use of litigation, which threatens and undermines the hard fought Constitutional right to freedom of expression, a right which is integral in ensuring transparency and accountability, particularly in relation to corporate actors. Our recent history in relation to corruption and maladministration involving both state and private actors exemplifies the need to protect the media, civil society and community activists from unjustified derision and attack.
Moreover, these SLAPP suits are part of broader strategies used by companies to stifle criticism and intimidate activists and community members. In a recent report released by Centre for Environmental Rights, groundWork, Earthjustice, and Human Rights Watch, threats against activists have been found to include harassment, intimidation and violence, in addition to the use of SLAPP suits.
Therefore civil society organisations which include legal NGO’s and community and activist organisations have decided to take a stand against corporate bullying and are launching a strategic campaign designed to resist all forms of corporate intimidation. This campaign, “Asina Loyika: Standing Together against Corporate Bullying” will be launched at a media briefing on 28 May 2019, a day before the first of the SLAPP suits go to court.
Civil society representatives who have expert knowledge in SLAPP suits and issues of corporate intimidation will comprise an expert panel at this media briefing. We therefore invite you to join a roundtable discussion with key experts who will provide direct information about the rollout of Asina Loyiko and challenges being faced by civil society in relation to corporate intimidation.
Details for Press Briefing
Date: Tuesday, 28 May 2019
Venue: Open Society Foundation offices, Temple House, 4th floor, Corner of Roeland & Buitenkant Streets, Cape Town
Time: 10h00 – 12h00
RSVP: Zahra Omar on 072 615 9528 / firstname.lastname@example.org
*Lunch to be served from 12h00
**Please note that there will also be a picket taking place on Wednesday 29 May outside Western Cape High Court: Details for Picket
Date: Wednesday 29 May 2019
Venue: Outside Western Cape High Court (on the steps below the entrance of the court), Keerom Street, Cape Town CBD
*Gathering at 6 Spin Street from 08h30 tea/coffee