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Tholo Threatens Newsday

Business

  • Threatens of a staggering M20 million lawsuit
  • Wants the publication’s licence cancelled

Staff Reporter

In a tense legal standoff, local businessman Thabiso Moroahae and his companies, Tholo Energy Services and its South African counterpart, have locked horns with Newsday Media, hurling accusations of defamation and demanding a retraction or facing a staggering M20 million lawsuit.

The conflict erupted following Newsday’s recent exposé on a damning South African High Court judgment, which dismissed Tholo Energy Services CC’s appeal for a substantial tax refund from the South African Revenue Services (SARS), totalling over M4 million.

Newsday’s article dissected the court ruling, exposing what it described as a “meticulously crafted scheme” by Tholo Energy Services CC, incorporated in South Africa, to unlawfully claim tax refunds, shedding light on the calculated nature of the misconduct.

Prompted by the damning article, Moroahae and his companies’ legal team from Tsabeha & Associates, penned a scathing letter to Newsday, demanding a retraction of the article and a formal apology.

“We have been instructed, therefore, to demand, as we hereby do, that you should retract this defamatory story, tender a written apology to Clients by the close of business on Monday, 18 February 2024,” the letter, dated February 16, 2024, ominously stated.

Furthermore, the letter issued on the very day of Newsday’s publication stipulated that in addition to the written apology, Newsday must provide a written undertaking to publish the retraction letter in its next two consecutive publications.

“Should you fail to comply with the demand stated above, we have instructions to issue summons for damages for defamation, in the amount M20, 000, 000 without any further notice, and to seek suspension of your licence and/or any appropriate relief,” the letter continued.

However, Newsday refused to back down in the face of the formidable threat. The publication promptly instructed its legal representatives to respond with equal vigour.

In a swift and firm response, L.D Ntsoereng Chambers, representing Newsday, rebuffed the allegations by Moroahae and his companies.

“We are instructed to inform you that the newspaper referred to in the letter does not bear any defamatory information regarding any of your clients,” the response stated.

The lawyers further elaborated, citing specific paragraphs and lines from the judgement to demonstrate that Newsday merely reported what was said, implied, and inferred by the court in its judgment.

“The reason for this submission is that the article took what was said, implied, and inferred by the court in its judgment,” the response explained.

Moreover, the response highlighted the ambiguity of Moroahae and his companies’ demand, noting that their letter failed to clearly articulate which words were deemed defamatory.

“‘The sole member… is Moroahae.’ If at all this statement is defamatory then it should be the judge in the matter who should be found to have been defaming your clients since the statement is quoted from para 3 and 5 of the judgment,” the response countered.

In their letter, Moroahae’s legal eagles had also swooped down on Newsday like lecturing scholars, wielding the cudgel of journalistic ethics.

They unleashed a torrent of admonitions upon Newsday, decrying the publication’s supposed lack of journalistic integrity.

With righteous indignation, they argued that Newsday, in its haste to sensationalise, had bypassed the cardinal rule of fair reporting: listening to the other side.

“…you were bound by the ethics of your profession, to hear Clients’ side of the story first,” admonished the lawyers, as if delivering a solemn lecture to novice journalists.

They further contended that Newsday had a moral obligation to delve into the depths of the court proceedings, to unearth the nuances and intricacies that were purportedly overlooked

“Have you followed the above route, you would have been aware that the matter remains sub-judice, pending hearing by the Supreme Court of Appeal,” they said.

The legal sermon did not end there. The lawyers, their voices dripping with disdain, scoffed at Newsday’s audacity to elevate an ‘old court judgment’ to the status of breaking news.

“A judgment of Court, which is a public record, issued as far back as February 2023, cannot be news in the proper context, deserving to be placed on the cover of the newspaper with a misleading title, absent any malicious intent on your part,” they said.

They added: “Further, despite the telephonic interview by Mr. Moroahae, whose names have been quoted several times in your article, warning of the defamatory nature of the contents of your publication, you have blatantly refused to remove the article and tender an apology.”

However, Newsday did not cower in the face of this legal barrage.

In their response, Newsday lawyers mentioned that regarding the allegedly pending Supreme Court of Appeal hearing, Newsday does not have any qualms with writing a follow-up story regarding the outcome of the same be it in Moroahae’s favour or not.

“… but as it stands, the judgement on which the article is based on stands. We wish to inform you that if the matter is taken to court, same will be vehemently opposed and costs will follow suit,” they said.

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