Handbags at dawn as event organisers' spat turns ugly
'Here we are in the high court in a matter involving R3,800,' says judge about Facebook fracas
If looks could kill, there would have been blood on the floor of a Durban high courtroom when two Ballito event organisers squared up over R3,800 and a mean Facebook post.
In the one corner sat events organiser Heidi Garbade who is accused of not paying her bills.
In the other was Tasmyn-Jain van Niekerk who, in seeking to get what she says she is owed, sought vengeance in a “defamatory” post on Facebook after an event went wrong.
The dispute may be three years old but the animosity has not abated as they cast daggers at each other while seated in court.
It has its roots in a Christmas fair organised by Garbade in Umhlali in December 2015. She employed Van Niekerk to assist her in return for commission.However the fair was shut down by the venue owner, who locked the doors claiming he had not been paid, leaving traders furious with Garbade.
“Instead of assisting me, Van Niekerk seized the opportunity to spread rumours that I stole their money. She referred to me as a thief, a scam and a fraudster,” Garbade said.
Presiding over the “Judge Judy”-like court case was Judge Johan Ploos van Amstel.
“Here we are in the high court in a matter involving R3,800,” he commented.
Of the Facebook post, in which Van Niekerk alleged Garbade has “screwed hundreds of people out of thousands of rands”, he suggested there “might be a more polite way of putting it”.
In 2016, while Garbade was organising another high-profile polo event and had lined up sponsors, traders and celebrities, Van Niekerk struck again with a Facebook post accusing her of not paying people and advising caution.
As a result, Garbade said, people began to pull out of the event.
“All of this for R3,800,” Garbade said in an urgent high court application in which she got an interim interdict against Van Niekerk to stop any harassment and an order directing that she take down the post.
While Garbade claims she does not owe traders or Van Niekerk money, saying “in fact I overpaid her”, Van Niekerk insists that she is owed the money for commission she earned for the fair.
She denies her post was defamatory but says if it was, it was justified based on truth and public interest.
She also denied Garbade’s claims that she had published complaints on consumer sites such as hellopeter.
“I believed in the truth of what I posted. I told her I would take it down when she paid me and others. However, when I got the court order I deleted it.”Van Niekerk’s advocate, Megan Sponneck, argued that the interim order should be discharged, saying her client was not responsible for “other posts already in the public domain” and, apart from the post now taken down, she had just shared links from different sites.
But Advocate Nirrad Manilal, for Garbade, said Van Niekerk could be held responsible for sharing any defamatory post and his client had a “constitutional right to dignity”. He asked that the order be made final.
Judgment was reserved.