Saturday, September 26, 2020

BONELA withdraws HIV defamation case on the eleventh hour

The case in which Oteng Radipudi, a head teacher at Kgabophuti Primary School, was arraigned before the High Court for defamation on allegations that he verbally abused his junior, a school teacher, in front of her colleagues on the basis that she shows all the symptoms of an HIV infected person, hit a dead end today as a key witness disappeared into thin air.

According to Justice Abednego Tafa, who presided over the case, as much as it was not so difficult to understand the plaintiff’s concern that the defendant had uttered words to the effect that she was ill, there was not sufficient evidence to support a case for defamation or violation of her privacy.

Wadipodi had said, “If it were anyone here saying that I would understand this overly scared thing. The illness is clearly manifest in your face.”
The complainant’s argument backed by evidence that “unfortunately” never reached Court, was that the words formed part of an ongoing defamation spree by Wadipodi.

Apparently, the contention of the defense, which the Judge seemed to buy in, was that it does not necessarily follow from these words that the disease referred to was HIV as it was not the only disease leading to the development of scars in the face or parts of the body.

Moreover, there must be proof that the defendant certainly knew the complainant’s status.

“Unless evidence is led in this regard, even the issue of invasion of privacy cannot hold,” cautioned Tafa.

However, on account of papers filed and evidence led in Court, it emerges that a certain Joyce Baison, one of the teachers who attended the meeting where the alleged utterances were made, was  viewed as the crucial element  that went missing at the eleventh hour, leaving Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV and AIDS (BONELA), which represented the plaintiff,  with no option but to withdraw their case.

“For instance, Baison went on record in the media, namely the Voice, as having vowed to testify in favour of the complainant to the end, after what she claimed was a punitive transfer of herself to another school, for having asserted her readiness to attest to everything uttered by Wadipodi both before and after the date under discussion,” said Uyapo Ndadi, Director of BONELA.

Sunday Standard also has in its possession sworn affidavits confirming things said by the accused head teacher.
Part of what Baison was expected to confirm was the fact that the “illness clearly manifest in the face” was HIV as she was one of those who heard from Wadipodi about the complainant’s status well before the 18th September 2007 meeting, and that “she was taking ARV treatment which caused her mental insanity”.

Thus, Ndadi argued that in the absence of this evidence, “We couldn’t move on, and had to withdraw our case, although this raises serious questions in relation to ethics on the part of those who were present but reluctant to testify in Court.”

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