The leader of the Gateway International Church, Themba Sibiya, is demanding R8 million from the SABC in a defamation lawsuit filed at the Johannesburg High Court because he was allegedly labelled a sexual predator and a false prophet during a segment of SABC1’s Izindaba programme.
According to his particulars of claim filed on March 10, the senior pastor argued that the negative sentiments about him aired on the programme in October reduced his esteem in the eyes of the religious community and created the misperception that he ordered women to perform sexual acts during his church service.
Sibiya’s court papers read:
The statements were wrongful, malicious and, further, lacked legitimate public interest. [They] had the consequence of tarnishing and damaging the plaintiff’s reputation and good name in the community He added that he was not aware of any allegations against him, nor that he was the so-called Prophet Deliverance, nor was he aware of any allegations of immoral serious sexual acts against any woman or of any case opened against him with the police service.
“To this date, the plaintiff has neither been charged nor summoned by the SA Police Service on any charges,” read his claim.
Sibiya insisted that the public broadcaster had deliberately portrayed him as a dishonest and immoral human being, and cited this as an infringement of his human rights.
His claim states:The statement is understood to mean the following: that the plaintiff acts in an immoral manner contrary to Christian beliefs; that he is a manipulative and deceitful person; that the plaintiff is unscrupulous; and lacks integrity in that he inflicts pain on women, both emotionally and psychologically
Sibiya further said that the programme had infringed on his right to privacy, as his family had been subjected to threats.
“The defendant [the SABC] failed to ensure that the plaintiff was afforded the same right to privacy as others … The plaintiff has since been confronted by a group of people [in Vryburg, North West] who expressed their disgust at him and threatened to end him and his satanic activities. Furthermore, this humiliation has become such a common thread within the plaintiff’s community since [the airing of the programme] that it has earned him the nickname ‘Pastor Wama Roll-on’,” read his claim.
It added that Sibiya’s ability to generate an income had been affected. He demanded R3 million to compensate for pain and suffering, R2 million for psychological suffering and R3 million for loss of amenities.
“The plaintiff has since been diagnosed with a mental condition (severe or clinical depression) and has been placed on medication for such conditions and is currently undergoing treatment.
“He is also undergoing marriage counselling with his spouse as a result,” read his claim.
Sibiya is further asking the court for an order compelling the SABC to apologise and to pay the costs of the lawsuit and his legal counsel.
Sibiya’s legal representative, Advocate Khana Khomela, declined to comment, saying the matter was sub judice.
The public broadcaster said it had not yet been served with the papers.
“When the corporation is served, it will consider and respond at the appropriate forum, as the SABC does not litigate through the media,” said Gugu Ntuli, the public broadcaster’s group executive of corporate affairs and marketing.