Controversial columnist David Bullard is suing South African print and online publication, the Mail & Guardian to the tune of R16 million for alleged defamation.
The claims follow a number of tweets and online columns published by Mail & Guardian journalists, Haji Dawjee and Alistair Fairweather, deriding Bullard’s conduct and views expressed on Twitter.
In early February, Bullard sparked outrage on social media by engaging with activist and journalist, Michelle Solomon on the topic of rape.
Solomon said she was raped in 2010 by the ex-boyfriend of her best friend. According to reports, Solomon said she didn’t report the case out of fear of hurting her friend, and feared that she wouldn’t be believed as she had been drinking.
Bullard accused Solomon of using Twitter to out her alleged rapist when she asked her followers how they would feel if she did so over the social media site, and accused the activist of “trying to make herself famous as a rape activist”.
Bullard said that, were Solomon’s claims of rape true, she should open a case against her alleged rapist, instead of threatening a public “outing” on social media.
“So we’re all agreed then,” Bullard tweeted. “We should ditch the legal system and allow women to out ‘rapists’ on social media without a shred of evidence.”
Bullard’s provocative views, and subsequent posts, were met with massive backlash from many in the South African Twittersphere, and drew the ire of many commentators and journalists.
In the wake of the uproar, a number of columns published by the Mail & Guardian and its employees accused Bullard of being a rape apologist and racist, amongst other things.
According to documents served to the Mail & Guardian, Bullard is seeking R16 million from the publication, and individuals in its employ, in four claims of defamation.
Bullard is seeking R5 million from Haji Dawjee for calling him a “rape apologist, sexist and racist” who “should be banned from writing for Politicsweb”, and for a column by the author published on the Mail & Guardian website.
The columnist is seeking a further R3 million from Alistair Fairweather, in his personal capacity, for a column published on his personal website bearing the heading “Bullard and Gordin epitomise rape culture”.
Mail & Guardian editor, Chris Roper is also being sued for R3 million in his editorial capacity, with another R5 million claim for an article by Solomon titled “I’ve had enough of Bullard. And so should you” published on the publication’s Thoughtleader website.
According to Bullard, each of these claims is as a result of the named parties actively and knowingly defaming him on public channels, and on top of the R16 million he is seeking retractions and apologies.
Speaking to his apparent infamy, Bullard pointed out that his career successes ended when the Sunday Times “decided to label me a racist” in 2008.
“Various media house employees over the years have decided to keep up the pressure to destroy my career. This they have successfully done and I now find myself unemployable.”
Bullard said his legal battle against TMG for wrongful dismissal over the 2008 column is ongoing – now in its sixth year – after the group was allegedly found to have forged court evidence in a previous hearing.
“I am not scared to expose corruption and rot, even if means taking on newspaper groups,” Bullard said.
Bullard also noted that two charities have rejected donations made by him as a direct result of the “M&G hate campaign”.
“Since there is not a grain of truth in any of the [Mail & Guardian] allegations I am quite happy to go to court, whatever the cost.”
Mail & Guardian has given notice of intent to oppose the action, but Alistair Fairweather, Chris Roper and Haji Dawjee all declined to comment on the matter.