The Constitutional Court will hear an application by the Citizen newspaper in May on whether it is defamatory to refer to Robert McBride’s apartheid-era crimes.
The Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled earlier this year that it was defamatory to call the former Ekurhuleni metro police chief a murderer.
He had been granted amnesty by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after he testified on how he planted a bomb at Magoos bar in 1986 for the ANC as part of its apartheid resistance campaign. Three people were killed in the incident.
The newspaper had used the term murderer, and other terms McBride considered defamatory, in a series of columns questioning his appointment to the police chief post.
The SCA judgement was based on a section of the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act, which states that amnesty expunges the conviction and sentence from all official records and also that “the conviction shall for all purposes … be deemed not to have taken place”.
Observers such as the South African National Editors’ Forum, which planned to become a friend of the court, supported the Citizen’s contention that not being able to refer to a past conviction could falsify history.
The matter is to be heard on Thursday May 27. — Sapa