Slapping down SLAPP suits in South Africa: The need for legislative protection and civil society action

Author: Zeenat Emmamally

ISSN: 1996-2177
Affiliations: Independent Researcher
Source: South African Law Journal, Volume 139 Issue 1, p. 1-31


A pernicious strand of legal proceedings, instituted by affluent parties to cow their critics into silence, is sweeping through the world, discouraging engagement on issues of public interest. These proceedings, termed strategic litigation against public participation (SLAPP) suits, have had deleterious effects on a range of rights, prompting civil society to push for targeted legislative protection against these lawsuits. After examining the phenomenon of SLAPP suits in South Africa and the inefficacy of existing protections, this article acknowledges that the enactment of anti-SLAPP legislation is necessary, and considers what this legislation should look like in South Africa. However, since the experience of other jurisdictions reveals that anti-SLAPP laws have occasionally been ineffective or have been subverted to create further injustice, this article recommends a range of civil society initiatives that could be employed concomitantly with legislation to curb SLAPP suits.