Zuma drops media defamation cases

The Presidency made the announcement on Friday afternoon.

President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS.

JOHANNESBURG - President Jacob Zuma has taken a decision to drop all outstanding defamation cases against the media, the Presidency said on Friday.

The president tried to sue various media houses in the past.

In a statement released on Friday afternoon, the Presidency said Zuma launched the legal action because he felt his name had been defamed.

Zuma raised concerns for what was described as "bigoted and racist overtones" in the depictions of him and other African males in general.

But after consulting his legal team, the Presidency said he has now decided to lay these cases to rest.

"The president feels that measured against the broader national interest and challenges which the country is faced with, his personal sentiments, however aggrieved, must give way," the statement read.

The cases were initiated between 2006 and 2010.

Zuma's decision to drop charges was widely welcomed.

Media lawyer Dario Milo said Zuma launched 14 cases worth R60 million, which was unprecedented in South African law.

He said in some cases, the defence raised was that Zuma was trying to intimidate the media.

The South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) also welcomed the decision.

Chairperson Nic Dawes said, "They've been hanging over members of the press for a long time and now. People will be able to focus on doing their work and reporting freely and robustly on his tenure as president."

Some of the publications involved in defamation cases with the president include Sunday World, Sunday Independent, Rapport, The Star and The Citizen.

94,7 Highveld Stereo presenter Darren "Whackhead" Simpson also had a case involving Zuma.