HIGH COURT ASKED TO INTERDICT THE SENDING OF ALLEGED DEFAMATORY REMARKS ON SOCIAL MEDIA
It’s become a daily routine for the Department of Arts and Culture (DAC) and its entity the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC) to receive social media remarks from one Freddie Nyathela.
For almost two years Nyathela has ensured his Twitter and Facebook crusade to “expose” what he terms the “ineptitude” of both entities goes on without fail.
On Friday Nyathela had posted: “Minister Nathi Mthethwa and his cabal at the National Arts Council should stop their hypocrisy and double standards perpetuating injustice”.
Needless to say, these tweets have created both friend and foe for Nyathela. Some have even blocked his social media accounts.
The NAC is among those who are gatvol with these tweets. Its board has heard (read) enough of Nyathela’s remarks and wants the courts to stop his rantings with immediate effect.
The relief sought is that Nyathela should desist from the sending of alleged defamatory remarks on social media against the NAC, its directors and associates who include the Minister of Arts and Culture, Nathi Mthetwa.
Some of the recipients of Nyathela’s perceived acerbic social media remarks (apart from the general public) are powerful individuals like president Cyril Ramaphosa (former president Zuma was among them), Speaker Baleka Mbethe, Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, and the Human Rights Commission.
Nyathela is president of the South African Roadies Association, SARA, a unique black training non-profit-organization.
A little background on SARA is that it is the only accredited training organization teaching the live event technical production qualification – NQF level 4. SARA prides itself as the only black-owned and managed training organization in the world which offers this kind of qualification.
It has also been recognized by the South African Qualifications Authority with a confirmation of pledge for its commitment to the delivery of quality education and the objectives of the National Qualifications Framework in South Africa.
SARA has been in existence for more than two decades, providing young black people with technical and production skills and opportunities in South African and beyond.
Currently, SARA has exported 17 youth skills to the United States of America touring with the only African American circus UniverSoul for 10 months. The life changing experience and skills transfer initiative which started in 2002, has seen more than a 100 black youth going to the States as part of the UniverSoul circus technical and production sound, lighting, audio visual and rigging crew.
Another SARA’s initiative is Africa’s only Live Event Technical and Production Conference (LETPC) now in its fourth year running which is scheduled for May 17 – 19 at the Sunnyside Park hotel in Parktown (www.letpc.co.za).
The NAC in court papers where they cite more than 100 remarks sent from Nyathela’s personal Twitter and that of SARA’s Facebook accounts, says it has decided to apply for a court interdict in line with the country’s Constitution which ensures everyone the right to human dignity.
Abaphenyi has found that the decision was a NAC board resolution on March 23 which empowered CEO Rosemary Mangope to take steps to interdict both Nyathela and SARA.
Filed on April 12, the NAC seeks the court to direct Nyathela and his organization to remove or cause the removal of messages about the NAC from its Twitter and Facebook pages or any other social media under their control.
The NAC also seeks Nyathela and SARA be interdicted from making, publishing, causing to be published, retweeting, commentary on Facebook or Twitter which started on August 20, 2016 “to date and have been unrelenting”.
But Nyathela is unfazed.
“Bring it on”, he says.
“Whatever I have posted is fact…and I am more than prepared to meet with the NAC at any forum. For that matter, I will continue to post. It is my data and the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech,” he says.
“We will not be intimidated,” he added.
Interestingly, the resolution to take Nyathela and co. to court was voted for by 13 of the 15 member NAC board. The two abstentions were advocate Nakedi Ribane and Pheni Ngove. Those who voted for include Avril Joffe, Bongani Mavuso, Edmund Mhlongo, Jabu Dlamini, Jerry Mabuza, Maleshi Naidoo, Maud van der Spuy, Michael Steve Arendse, Sekgothe Mokgoatsana, Thandiwe Profit McLean, Thoko Nogabe, poet Zolani Mkiva and board chair Hartley Ngoato.
Ngoato faced a torrid time in Parliament last week where he was grilled on various governance issues pertaining to the NAC.
WHERE IT BEGAN
The standoff between the NAC and SARA has its genesis in 2014. This was after the NAC rejected SARA’s flagship project funding application for the purchase of lighting and stage equipment totaling R920 734. 64.
Among reasons cited for the failure to secure funding was that SARA did not submit supporting documents. SARA rejected the assertion and the matter is presently with the Public Protector.
Since the fallout, Nyathela says he resorted to social media after he had despaired in the efficacy of communicating with both the DAC and the NAC on other means.
He says his tweet campaign was in order to expose what he terms the disregard for “Batho Pele and the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 principles at the NAC”.
In his mind, the litigation exercise by the NAC is abuse of State resources and an attempt to choke SARA. The NAC wants Nyathela and SARA jointly pay the cost of the application.
Attempts by Abaphenyi to contact NAC board chair Ngoato (after earlier promises to respond to our inquiries) were unsuccessful. Repeated cellphone calls, Wattsap messages and an email sent to his personal account went unanswered.
Abaphenyi were left bemused that whereas Ngoato and company are taking SARA and Nyathela to court over Tweets, chooses to ignore those sent by us.
Abaphenyi are still awaiting response from the NAC communication manager Janet Molekwa to our media inquiry sent last Thursday.
Nyathela and SARA are opposing the application.