Mkhwebane Demands R5 Million From Daily Maverick Over ‘Derogatory Headline’

Former Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane sworn in as an EFF member of parliament on 20 October 2023.

Former Public Protector and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) member of parliament (MP) Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane has instructed her legal representatives to take legal steps against the multimedia house Daily Maverick, as well as its editor Branko Brkic and journalist Marianne Thamm.

Mkhwebane instituted the legal action following an article published on the Daily Maverick’s online platform that contained a headline that referred to her in what seems to be a derogatory manner. Through her lawyers, Gardee Godrich Attorneys, Mkhwebane stated that Brkic and Thamm caused the publication of a derogatory news article with the headline, “Kant of the Year: Busisiwe Mkhwebane comes back to rock Parliament with her EFF studs.”

The story was part of a series titled “People of the Year 2023.”

The EFF MP contended in her letter of demand that the word “Kant” was deliberately used in the headline to associate her name with a differently spelled derogatory word that refers to a female private part. Dated December 26, Mkhwebane’s letter of demand said the “demeaning” word breached her privacy, dignity, and human rights as provided for in the Constitution.

“On or about 24 December 2023, the editor of the online media house, Daily Maverick, and a journalist, Marianne Thamm, caused an article to be published on the online platform of Daily Maverick, including in the social media “X” under the handle of an account “@dailymaverick”.

“The article was posted twice on the X platform, at 16h51 and at 20h17. The article is unrestricted to readers to ensure wide readership specifically to this article, as opposed and an often practise by the media house on the online publication on some articles featured,” stated the letter of demand.
Mkhwebane’s legal representatives argued that the “offensive headline” was published with the intention to humiliate, defame, and tarnish her reputation.

Godrich Gardee with EFF leadership outside the Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg. Photo: Supplied.

They further argued that the timing of the article, published on Christmas Eve, was deliberate to maximize the impact and harm caused.

“Our client asserts that the referral to her as a ‘Kant’ is a disingenuous innuendo referring to her as a ‘cunt.’ The word ‘Kant’ is a known slang for the word ‘Cunt’ and if properly written on the online platform, it could have been censured by the online media platform, and to circumvent that, you used the word ‘Kant.’ The word ‘cunt’ is frequently used to derogate, humiliate, insult, and impair the dignity and integrity of a person.

“The media house and its journalist maliciously referred to her as such unprovoked and as such, the media house is vicariously liable jointly and severally with the journalist in its employ,” Gardee Godrich Attorneys stated in the letter.

Section 10 provides that ‘Everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected.’ In terms of sections 36 and 37 (5)(c), the right to human dignity is a non derogable right. Your conduct is unprecedently insensitive in the midst of appalling gender-based violence besieging the country, and for that matter, your journalist to refer to her as a private part of a woman, a woman that she, the journalist, is. The headline was too low, unwarranted, and better yet, a less intrusive or demeaning word or words could have been used than crude insulting cruelty.”

According to Mkhwebane’s attorneys, the article in question received significant attention, with over 500 reposts, 500,000 views, and more than 600 comments criticizing the media house and the journalist.

“Your media house has in excess of 572 000 followers, who in turn have an excess of over five million followers brought together. Amongst those who liked and reposted your malicious posts about our client are verified accounts whose holders have a combined followership in excess of two million. Your categorizing of the article about our client as “unrestricted” was meant to solicit maximum readership to inflict maximum emotional pain and slanderous to our client, an assignment well achieved. Our client is a married family women with children who are at risk of being bullied and ridiculed as a result of your malicious headline,” the letter of demand further said.

Leaders of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) gathered at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg to celebrate the party’s 10th anniversary.

Mkhwebane’s legal representatives have demanded a retraction and apology from Daily Maverick within 24 hours, along with a payment of R5 million to a nonprofit organization fighting against gender-based violence.

“In the circumstances, we are instructed to demand, as we hereby do, that you should retract the injurious headline referred to in this letter and apologise within 24 hours of receipt of this letter. Your retractions should be clear and unconditional. The wording of such a retraction and apology must be made in consultation with our client’s legal representatives and issued within 24 hours of the delivery of the letter.

“Failure to comply with the above, our instructions in paragraphs 16 and 17, it is our instruction to commence legal proceedings against you without any further notice and such proceedings to include but not limited to the court or an appropriate tribunal. In the event that legal proceedings are instituted, we are instructed to pray that the court grant punitive costs, including the cost of counsel so employed.”

Brkic did not immediately respond to a media inquiry on the matter. A WhatsApp message sent to him appeared to have been read but was not responded to.



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