/ 30 July 2009

Zuma, Guardian settle libel case

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday welcomed the settlement in the United Kingdom High Court of Justice Queen’s bench division, between himself and the Guardian newspaper.

Zuma believed the allegations reported by the newspaper were extremely offensive to him and the ruling party, the presidency said in a statement.

”The president firmly believes in the freedom of the press as he has fought hard for freedom of expression and other basic rights during the struggle against apartheid.

”In this matter, the Guardian newspaper disregarded the basic principles of journalism and media ethics. Both parties have agreed to the damages amount and a public apology and consider the matter as concluded,” the presidency said.

The settlement was reached three months after Zuma sued the paper for defamation over an article that described his leadership style as ”morally contaminated”.

”There was a settlement,” said Hayley Dunlop from the British newspaper, but could not give the amount paid to Zuma in damages.

Zuma rejected an initial offer of £10 000 (R128 500). He sued the newspaper in April after it published an article by Simon Jenkins under the headline ”Get used to a corrupt and chaotic South Africa. But don’t write it off”.

It warned that those ”dealing with South Africa must probably get used to Zuma’s style of government — morally contaminated, administratively chaotic and corrupt”. It quoted an unnamed friend of the author describing Zuma as ”a criminal and a rapist”.

The newspaper apologised to the president later that month, saying it regretted suggesting he was guilty of rape and that this was included in the story due to an ”editing error”.