There was a victory for the media on Thursday as Judge Roland Sutherland set aside South African Airways’ interdict against three media houses – Moneyweb, Business Day and Media24 – in the High Court in Johannesburg.
This means that the publications can now publish the airline’s internal memorandum containing a warning about reckless trading.
SAA asked the court for an urgent interdict to prohibit the media from publishing the memo.
Judge Sutherland also gave a punitive cost order against SAA for “unprofessionalism” in the management of the urgent application.
Eric van den Bergh, who represented various media houses, expressed relief at the judgment.
“This is what we had wanted, having been surprised in the middle of the night and I think it’s the right decision although I haven’t read the judgment,” he told the media.
Van den Bergh said the only way SAA could counter the decision would be by bringing a fresh application to the court.
SAA had claimed legal privilege over the memo, which was prepared by Ursula Fikelepi – the head of legal, risk and compliance at SAA – for former acting CEO Thuli Mpshe to the SAA board. Fikelepi said the memo contained “privileged” and “highly confidential” information of a “very sensitive nature”.
Several media groups, including City Press and Fin24, published information from a leaked memo last month. Journalists have been focusing on SAA’s financial crisis, which has been exacerbated by the controversial Airbus deal.