Ex-mayor takes KRA to equality court
Bouw-Spies claims R100 000 for unfair discrimination, hate speech and harassment
Former Knysna mayor Eleanore BouwSpies has filed a complaint in the Knysna Equality Court against the Knysna Ratepayers' Association (KRA) and its Facebook page for unfair discrimination, hate speech and harassment.
Bouw-Spies is seeking relief in the form of a payment of R100 000, an apology and a prohibition against the organisation from publishing any defamatory, discriminatory statements or pictures, as well as an instruction to remove existing offensive material.
In an affidavit, Bouw-Spies claims the KRA has "ruined her life" and that her life is now in danger. She states she has been subjected to a barrage of defamatory comments and posts by the KRA and their followers, both leading up to and after her being unseated as mayor.
“I have been openly labelled as corrupt, useless, dishonest and accused of maladministering (sic) the town. I have been insulted, personally degraded by members and supporters of the Knysna Ratepayers on their Facebook page and that of Knysna Politics Exposed (KPE), who share the same administrators,” claims Bouw-Spies.
The complaint, filed on 13 August, includes excerpts from the two Facebook pages, which the KRA says Bouw-Spies has indiscriminately mixed, and that although it finds the KPE page often provides valuable and informative comment and insights, the KRA committee has no control over it.
The KRA stated that in including those excerpts, the former mayor is erroneously making unwarranted and unsupportable assumptions.
“My life has been ruined as a result of the fact that I have been subjected to this insidious and unfounded campaign of false information. The detractors, who are all supporters of the Knysna Ratepayers, have gone so far as to insinuate that I was involved in a murder and have in fact been arrested. I have affidavits to prove this and shall furnish same to the court. My life is in danger and my husband and children are being targeted. I have no recourse other than to resort to this honourable court to obtain relief,” claims Bouw-Spies in the affidavit. “Their attitude has resulted in an upswelling of hatred and people feeling free to make fun of me, see the memes.”
The KRA denies the allegations, calling Bouw-Spies' claims "gratuitous, baseless and wholly without merit". “As to her more madcap, defamatory claims: that we have accused her of murder and of having been arrested, that we have ruined her life and that her life is in danger – again, she supplies no evidence of any of these, for the simple reason that there isn’t any.”
It states that every criticism it makes is solely motivated by its desire to achieve good, clean governance and effective service delivery, and to keep residents informed of what council and the administration are doing. It says it is looking forward to seeing the affidavits that insinuate her involvement in a murder and that "perjury is a criminal offence".
“Although we have been critical of a number of things that she and her former municipal manager Kamalasen Chetty have done, all of our criticisms are justified and constitute fair comment. None of those criticisms constitutes unfair discrimination,” reads the statement from the KRA.
'She should know better'
“As an experienced politician and councillor, Bouw-Spies should know better than to make wild, unsupported claims against a nonprofit organisation that represents many of her constituents, or to seek damages from them for imagined offences. Playing a phoney race card in an effort to frustrate criticism, or for personal gain, is unworthy of her or any elected official. Residents have a right to ask questions, criticise, and hold their elected officials to account,” reads the statement.
Bouw-Spies declined to comment on the matter, stating it is sub judice.
“I have no intention of allowing a legal matter I am bringing in my private capacity to be tried in the media. This matter will serve before the courts in due course and the magistrate will decide whether the proceedings will be open to the public or in camera,” she said.
The KRA will have to now formally respond to the affidavit before the court decides whether to hear the case or refer it for mediation.