Appeal Decision: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi vs Sunday Times

Decision: Application for leave to appeal

Applicant: Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Respondent: Sunday TImes

  1. The Applicant, Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, seeks leave to appeal to the Appeals Panel of the Press Council of South Africa against a decision of the Ombudsman.
  2. The complaint was against The Sunday Times newspaper. The Appellant’s complaint was that the paper referred to him in its publication of 13 March 2013 as “Not Gatsha”. This appeared under the Hogarth column. “Not Gatsha” is not Appellant’s name and he takes exception against being referred so. In his view, it is in fact Mr Mondli Makhanya, writing under that column, who calls him so. He believes Mr Makhanya has a vendetta against him. It is Appellant’s view that his dignity is being violated. In this respect, the Appellant referred to provisions of the Press Code and the Constitution. Appellant also complained that the use of that name connects him to the political violent past in the country.
  3. For its part, the Respondent argues that the Appellant has never been referred to as “Not Gatsha” in any serious news report or feature; only in the Hogarth column which is satirical of nature. Respondent also argues that Appellant is really seeking to bar them from ever in future  referring to him as such.
  4. After Appellant had filed his complaint, he added another issue: that he is being referred to as “Chief”, a title which has a colonial origin and which has been legislated out of use, as he puts it. He has to be referred to by his correct title, namely, “Prince”. The latter is, of course, his correct title.
  5. In my view, the correct approach to consider this application is to focus on the article of 13 March 2013. The name “Not Gatsha” was used in a satirical article. Every reasonable reader understands that column to be satirical; they do not take it seriously. The Ombudsman’s comparison of it to a cartoon is apposite, in my view. It could possibly be different if the name was used in a serious report or a report which purports to be factual. It would be under those circumstances that, possibly, issues of vendetta, dishonest motive etc on the part of the paper or Mr Makanya might arise, as also issues relating to the violent past.
  6. In the circumstances, I do not believe that there are any reasonable prospects that the appeal to the Appeal Panel would succeed. The application is therefore refused.

Dated this  2nd day of July 2013.

Judge B M Ngoepe, Chairperson: Appeal Panel