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Punitive costs order granted against developer

9 February 2011 at 4:16 pm

On 9 February 2011, the North Gauteng High Court handed down a punitive costs order against Wraypex Developments for its unsuccessful R170 million lawsuit against four members of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy. The case was dismissed with costs on 6 December 2010.

Costs were awarded on an attorney and client scale, which is significantly more than the ordinary costs awarded against an unsuccessful plaintiff. According to a media release from the Rhenosterspruit Conservancy, Judge Stanley Sapire cited “the belligerent style of Wraypex’s attorney’s letters which were calculated to intimidate and create enmity”, “the extravagant amount claimed by Wraypex” and the timing of the institution of the actions against the Conservancy members (when Wraypex had already obtained approval for the establishment of the township) as reasons for his decision.

It is not yet clear whether Wraypex will appeal Judge Sapire’s decision.

The unsuccessful lawsuit by Wraypex is widely known as South Africa’s first “SLAPP suit” (strategic litigation against public participation).

The Centre for Environmental Rights welcomes the judgement, and hopes that it will discourage other developers from attempts to intimidate activists exercising their Constitutional rights to public participation and freedom of expression.