STATEMENT: 10 September 2020
The full bench of the High Court of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Division, Pietermaritzburg (the “High Court”) has dismissed the appeal filed by Zanchieta Wild Cat Farm (“Zanchieta”) against the whole of the judgment of the Honourable Ms Justice Mokgohloa, and instructed Zanchieta to pay BLOOD LIONS’ legal costs, including the costs incurred by the employment of Senior Counsel.
On 19 November 2015, Zanchieta launched an application for urgent injunctive relief against the producer and executive producer (collectively, “the producers”) of the documentary feature film, ‘BLOOD LIONS’.
Zanchieta purports to be a wildlife rehabilitation centre and sanctuary. However, Zanchieta failed to disclose in its papers that according to its own brochure provided to volunteers it also acts as a nursery for cubs that are brought to the farm by neighbouring breeders to be hand-raised before they are allegedly relocated into reserves.
Images of Zanchieta’s lions as well as an interview with one of its representatives were included in the documentary as well as on various websites/pages including Facebook and YouTube. In its founding papers, Zanchieta alleged that the images and footage were defamatory of it insofar as it associated Zanchieta with canned lion hunting and the lion bone trade. It was further alleged that as a result of this association volunteer agencies now refused to refer volunteers to Zanchieta, this being its primary source of income. The urgency of the application was based on screenings of the documentary which were to be held in the United Kingdom on Friday, 27 November 2015 and Saturday, 28 November 2015.
Accordingly, Zanchieta sought to prevent of all further screenings of the film and requested that an amended version of the documentary be redistributed excluding all images, footage and references to Zanchieta. Zanchieta also sought a correction to be included in the amended version recording that Zanchieta is not involved with canned lion hunting or the lion bone trade.
BLOOD LIONS’ legal team of Andrea Gabriel SC and Peter Whelan and Alan Wright of Bowman Gilfillan Incorporated raised non-joinder and certain jurisdictional points. It was also argued on behalf of the producers that any reference to Zanchieta was not defamatory and that it had failed to make out a case for urgent injunctive relief.
The application was heard in the High Court of South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal Division, Pietermaritzburg by Mokgohloa J on Friday, 27 November 2015. The urgent application for relief was not granted and judgment was reserved until the following week with the screenings in the United Kingdom going ahead as planned.
On 2 December 2015, Mokgohloa J granted an order dismissing the application in its entirety together with costs, including the costs of senior counsel (the “Order”). In handing down the Order Mokgohloa J commented that she had viewed the footage. Reasons therefore were delivered on 22 August 2016 (the “Reasons”).
Thereafter, and on 12 September 2016, Zanchieta filed an application for leave to appeal to the full bench of the High Court against the whole of the Order as well as the Reasons, which application was granted by Mokgohloa J on 11 April 2017 (the “Appeal”).
The Appeal was first set down for hearing on 30 July 2018 before the Honourable Mr Justice Seegobin, the Honourable Mr Justice Vahed and the Honourable Mr Justice Mngadi.
Zanchieta however erred in its preparation of the record. In the result, inter alia, the hearing of the Appeal was postponed sine die so as to allow Zanchieta to rectify the record.
This notwithstanding, Zanchieta failed to remedy the record and solely as a result of the efforts of BLOOD LIONS and its legal team was the Appeal set down for hearing, and heard, on 4 September 2020.
On the same day as the hearing of the Appeal, the full bench of the High Court dismissed the appeal, and instructed Zanchieta to pay BLOOD LIONS’ legal costs, including the costs incurred by the employment of Senior Counsel.
The Blood Lions team is extremely happy with this outcome, and would like to thank our legal team Advocate Andrea Gabriel SC, and Peter Whelan and Alan Wright of Bowman Gilfillan for their incredible support once again.
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