What are the legal implications of naming and shaming water wasting culprits?

Publishing the names of people who have allegedly contravened water restrictions may run a risk of having a number of defamation cases lodged against a municipality.

Though in the case of the City of Cape Town the list released contained only the street names where the culprits reside.

Cape Town Executive Mayor Particia De Lille said fines of up to R2 000 have been issued to people not adhering to the water restrictions.

She added, 'once those issued with fines ranging between R500 and R2 000 have paid their admission of guilt fines, we will [by law] be able to name them.'

Thus far no one has been named.

But, if any municipality did name names, what case is there for legal action if residents are guilty of overriding the rules?

Legal consultant Ben Winks explains.

The defining line if you can name and shame anybody in anything, is public interest.

Ben Winks, Independent Legal Consultant

For someone who is actually contravening water restrictions in circumstances where there is drought and water is an increasingly scarce resource, there is a degree of public interest in that.

Ben Winks, Independent Legal Consultant

So as long as its true and it's in the public interest then defamation action by the person who is named and shamed will not succeed.

Ben Winks, Independent Legal Consultant

36 fines were issued last week to consumers, as well as list released on Thursday of the streets in which the top water users live.

Listen to the full interview below...


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