Swazi Mirror fails to defend PS' E2m lawsuit
MBABANE – The Swazi Mirror newspaper has failed to defend a E2 million lawsuit by Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Cyril Kunene.
The matter was before High Court Judge Qinisile Mabuza yesterday.
Swazi Mirror is a weekly newspaper having its principal place of business in Mbabane.
It ran an article on February 4 to 11, 2011, where Kunene’s picture was on the front page.
The article allegedly made defamatory allegations against a top government official which cannot be repeated for their alleged defamatory nature.
It was alleged that Kunene had mediated the matter between two officers from his ministry.
The story was written by Zweli Dlamini who was cited as the first defendant and the publication being the second respondent.
Kunene was represented by Bhekisisa Zwane and there was no appearance for Dlamini and the Swazi Mirror as the application was not defended.
Kunene led evidence in court narrating how the article had impaired his image and dignity.
"My concern with the publication was that I knew of no mediation that I had been involved regarding the incident.
"I was taken aback and I felt this was a malicious article against me and was injuring my image," Kunene said.
Kunene was accused of having come up with a solution and the matter was resolved amicably.
He was also accused of failing to report the matter to the rightful authorities when he had a duty to do so.
The PS said the story itself was an untruth yet it created the impression that he was involved in a matter which he knew nothing of.
"There was a follow up of the article where the story was written in detail. The story referred to secretive meetings which I had with the parties concerned when the reporter came to my office. He said there was a meeting behind closed doors," Kunene stressed.
Failure by the publication to defend the lawsuit will have adverse effects on it.
This effectively means Kunene might be awarded the damages claimed as his evidence led in court was not disputed or challenged. Not defending a lawsuit effectively means that you are submitting to it. Judgment by default may be obtained against the publication if there is proof that it was actually served with the application and the notice of set down.
However, the publication may make an application for the rescission of the judgment if it has valid reasons for the failure to defend it at first. Judgment will be awarded in relation to the evidence led before court and not necessarily the damages claimed.
Swazi Mirror may also have to pay the costs of suit despite its failure to defend the application.
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