UCT student awarded over R300,000 from UCT for defamation

Defamation is a limit on freedom of speech. If a statement made publicly about a person and is unproven, not in the public interest and damaging, the accused may sue for defamation.

A former student of the University of Cape Town has been awarded over R300 000 in damages in a defamation claim.

Ramaano Marathi Ramokgopa was named as one of a number of ‘rapists at UCT’ at a memorial service for Uyinene Mrwetyana, whose rape and murder spurred nationwide concern about violence towards women. It was subsequently spread on social media.

Siphelele Lenah Nxumalo, a former girlfriend of Ramokgoba, included his name on the list. She had done some – by her account – at the behest of a former girlfriend of Ramokgoba. Ramokgoba denied ever having had sex with the woman in question.

Being named in this way made him a social outcast and he contemplated suicide.

Judge Elizabeth Baartman issued an award to Ramokgopa of R80 000 for the damage inflicted on his reputation, R23 279 for medical expenses, and R200 000 for treatment in future. Nxumalo was also ordered to apologise in writing and on social media.

Judge Baartman issued a default order as Nxumalo had demonstrated a ‘contemptuous attitude’. She had not participated in the proceedings and had not attempted to help Ramogkoba have his name cleared.

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