THE SOUTH GAUTENG HIGH COURT (JOHANNESBURG)
Case no: 2012/14569
In the matter between:
DUTCH REFORMED CHURCH VERGESIG First Applicant
HENDRIK ABEL VAN ROOYEN Second Applicant
RAYAN SOOKNUNAN t/a Respondent
GLORY DIVINE WORLD MINISTRIES
Neutral citation: Dutch Reformed Church v Rayan Sooknunan 2012 SA (GSJ)
Coram: SATCHWELL J
Heard: 2 May 2012
Delivered: 14 May 2012
Summary: Interdict – freedom of expression and inflammatory publication –
Facebook social media – registration of users – creation of Facebook page – control of
postings on Facebook – anonymity of postings – responsibility for content on Facebook
– unique nature of religious language – injurious but not defamatory or inciteful –
disclosure of email addresses on Facebook invasion of privacy – to liken a Dutch
Reformed Minister with Judas Iscariot interdicted.
 The Dutch Reformed Church of the Vergesig Johannesburg Congregation
(•eDRC•f) is the registered owner of certain church premises situated at Main Street
and Church Square, Langlaagte (•ethe church•f) and Henrik Abel van Rooyen (•evan
Rooyen•f) is an ordained Minister of the DRC and Chairman of the DRC Council. They
seek an order against Rayan Sooknunan (•eSooknunan•f) trading as Glory Divine
World Ministries (•eGDWM•f) which is essentially in three parts: interdicting
Sooknunan/GDWM from publishing certain allegedly harmful allegations and comments;
interdicting Sooknunan/GDWM from unlawfully interfering in a contract between the
DRC and the potential purchaser of the church; and interdicting Sooknunan/GDWM
from interfering in the DRC•fs rights as owner of the church.
 This application was heard as one of urgency. It raises some important issues
which, unfortunately, were not apparently anticipated by counsel representing either
party with the result that there was no reference to any authorities with regards to these
particular issues nor much exploration in argument of those issues. These issues are
the use to which social media, such as Facebook, are or can be put and the legal
implications thereof; the interrelationship between inflammatory language and
incitement on the one hand and freedom of speech and entitlement to lobby for a point
of view on the other hand; and the particular nature of religious language.
 The background to the dispute between the DRC and van Rooyen and
Sooknunan/GDWM contextualises the various issues which are raised in this judgment.
 During 2000/2001 the DRC decided to allow another religious organisation to
conduct services at the church building on Sunday mornings once the DRC service was
finalised. Over a period of time the white Afrikaans DRC congregation of the Vergesig
church decreased until there are apparently now very few, if any, members. This
decrease in membership was accompanied by a parallel increase in the membership of
the other church organisation utilising these church premises. Sooknunan is the
•eFounder and Head•f of the GDWM and there is, apparently, now a congregation in
the region of some one thousand persons whose activities focus around these church
 In 2010 the DRC and van Rooyen decided to sell the Vergesig premises. DRC
and Sooknunan could not agree on a purchase price. The Council of the DRC offered a
sole tenancy of the Vergesig church to Sooknunan/GDWM pending the sale of the
church which offer of tenancy was accepted on 7th February 2011.
 The DRC has now sold the church to Rafeek Ahmed Hathurani on behalf of
As-Salihoot Islamic Academy (being a section 21 company to be formed) for the sum of
R2.7 million. The reasons for selling the church include that there are only a few
remaining members of the white Afrikaans DRC congregation, the financial burden of
maintaining different church buildings not always in use, and the intention to utilise the
amount received from sale of buildings for ministering work.
 Sooknunan has wished to purchase the church premises from the DRC. It made
an offer of R700 000.00 (seven hundred thousand rand) which was not acceptable to
the DRC. Sooknunan has been unable to achieve the sale price of R2.7 million which
has been offered by the successful purchaser.
 On 24th October 2011 the DRC advised Sooknunan/GDWM that his and their
occupancy would be terminated and notice was thereby given. This notice was not well
received. DRC alleges that Sooknunan changed the locks on the doors of the church
and installed chains to those doors thereby excluding the DRC from the premises which
allegation is denied by Sooknunan who states that access has been sought and granted
on occasion. The DRC brought an application for the eviction of the GDWM which
application was withdrawn for technical reasons and is to be reinstated.
 This inability to purchase the church premises and obtain permanent occupation
thereof and the impending sale and/or eviction, has understandably resulted in
considerable distress on the part of Sooknunan and GDWM.1 Sooknunan/ GDWM has
apparently embarked on a public campaign to cause the DRC to abandon the sale of
the church building and the eviction of Sooknunan/GDWM and is lobbying to this effect.
THE LOBBYING CAMPAIGN
 It is freely admitted by Sooknunan and GDWM that he and they have been
lobbying against the proposed sale of the church buildings. It appears from his papers
that they do so on three main grounds. Firstly, Sooknunan maintains that there was a
verbal agreement that the GDWM could remain in occupation of the building indefinitely
for as long as they propagated the Christian faith from those premises and this decision
to sell the building and evict them is •etreachery•f and going back on the word of the
church. Secondly, Sooknunan objects to one faith based organisation evicting another
faith based organisation from church premises for •ecommercial reasons•f. Thirdly,
Sooknunan objects that a Christian organisation would sell Christian church premises to
a Muslim organisation.
 DRC•fs complaints to this court concern this campaign on the part of
 Van Rooyen states that Sooknunan •ecreated a website where he commenced
a vicious vendetta against me and the first applicant•f. The view is taken that •ethe
contents of the website created by the respondent incited the public and, particularly the
Christian public to act against me, as I am the Chairman of the Board which decided to
sell the church to the Islamic community for educational purposes•f.
 Van Rooyen believes •emy life may be in danger•f as •esome members of the
public are extremely radical and, may in fact, take my life•f. They may do so because
they may •ebelieve their conduct is justified and in the interests of the entire Christian
community•f. Furthermore, the •evarious newspaper articles and facebook articles
published by the respondent created a widespread response and I received numerous
calls from the public wherein I was accused of acting contrary to Christian beliefs and
wherein veiled threats were made•f.2 Van Rooyen goes on to state that he received
‘email correspondence from various sources where he is accused and insulted which is
GDWM has raised, in its answering affidavit, that its tenancy of the church premises was
agreed in April 2001 ‘indefinitely provided I continued preaching and/or propagating the
Christian faith from the premises’. It has been argued that this oral agreement, varied a number
of times regarding monetary contribution/rental, disentitles the DRC from terminating GDWM’s
occupation of the premise, evicting GDWM or selling the premises. This is not an issue to be
determined by this court. That is an issue to be decided by a court hearing the eviction
application as and when it is reinstated.
Van Rooyen states that ‘I have no knowledge of the identify of any of these individuals’.
a clear indication that I am being targeted’.
 Finally van Rooyen concluded that Sooknunan ‘in acting as he does may
cause friction and tension between the Christian community and the Islamic community
to such an extent that anything may happen. People’s conduct when it comes to
religion are always unpredictable and, many individuals believe they act in the interests
of the Deity should they take action, and particularly, violent action’.
 Accordingly, a number of interdicts are sought restraining Sooknunan trading as
GDWM ‘from publishing any “malicious, injurious, inflammatory and /or
defamatory matter” either verbally or in writing through literature, documents,
emails, SMS messages or by using the internet or any website.’
FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
 Nowhere in the DRC/Van Rooyen founding affidavit nor in argument did it appear
that applicants had given consideration to the relationship between their
concerns/complaints and the Constitutional protection of ‘freedom of expression’. I
sought to engage with them on this level – an invitation which counsel for Sooknunan
 Throughout Sooknunan’s answering affidavit, where there is admission of
authorship of comment, the defence is raised that what is written or published is ‘fair
and reasonable comment’.
 The court must consider not only the defence of ‘fair comment’ but also have
regard to the Constitutional protections offered to expression of views and engagement
in discussion and debate.
 Human interaction is based upon communication and is one of the main sources
and products of human development.3 As was said in South African National Defence
Union v Minister of Defence and Another 素reedom of expression constitutes one of the
essential foundations of a democratic society, as is one of the basic conditions for its
progress and for the development of every woman and man・.4
 The particular South African experiences enjoin all of us to be alert to
infringements of the right to freedom of expression wherever it may be found.5 In a
matter such as this, where one institution is pitted against another, where the
expression of another right (that of religious practice) is also involved, where there
appear to be not only religious but also racial and class undertones, then the court
must be mindful that freedom of expression is ‘valuable for many reasons’ which
include ‘its facilitation of the search for truth by individuals and society generally’
See Phillips and Another v Director of Public Prosecutions 2003 (4) BCLR 357 (CC).
1999 (6) BCLR 615 (CC); 1999 (4) SA 469 (CC); See also Phillips supra.
because the ‘Constitution recognises that individuals in our society need to be able to
hear, form and express opinions and views freely on a wide range of matters.’6
 However, there is no doubt that there is no unlimited right to unfettered freedom
to express every thought or viewpoint whenever and wheresoever and about
whomsoever one chooses regardless of the consequences. There are always
limitations placed upon expression. For such limits, the court must consider what is
•ereasonable and justifiable in a democratic society based upon human dignity,
equality and freedom•f.7
 In evaluating the publications of which the DRC and Van Rooyen complain one
must do more than consider the •efair comment•f defence which has been raised but
also consider the responsibilities of Sooknunan as •efounder and leader•f of a
 Expression may often be robust, angry, vitriolic, and even abusive. 8 One has to
test the boundaries of freedom of expression each time. The court must be alive to the
issues involved, the context within which the debate takes place, the protagonists to the
dispute or disagreement, the language used as well as the content of which is said,
written and published and about whom it is published.
 Van Rooyen•fs founding affidavit refers to approaches by Sooknunan to •emost
of the major newspapers, radio stations and ETV•f and •ethe various newspaper
 In the founding affidavit itself, Van Rooyen sets out extracts from one newspaper
article in the Durban Post (which was replicated on the GDWM Facebook page). This is
not a photocopy of that which appeared in the paper itself nor does it purport to be the
entire article. What appears to be objectionable is what is quoted in the founding
‘How can one religious institute replace another?•f
South African Broadcasting Corporation Limited v National Director of Public Prosecutions and Others
(CCT58/06)  ZACC 15; 2007 (1) SA 523 (CC); 2007 (2) BCLR 167 (CC);  JOL 18339 (CC) (21
See S v Mamabolo (E TV and Others Intervening) 2001 (3) SA 409 (CC); 2001 (5) BCLR 449 (CC) where it
was said ‘With us the right to freedom of expression cannot be said automatically to trump the right to human
dignity. The right to dignity is at least as worthy of protection as the right to freedom of expression. How these two
rights are to be balanced, in principle and in any particular set of circumstances, is not a question that can or should
be addressed here. What is clear though and must be stated, is that freedom of expression does not enjoy superior
status in our law.’
In Case and Another v Minister of Safety and Security and Others; Curtis v Minister of Safety and Security and
Others 1996 (3) SA 617 (CC);1996 (5) BCLR 609 (CC) freedom of expression extends ‘even where those
views are controversial. The corollary of the freedom of expression and its related rights is tolerance by society of
different views. Tolerance, of course, does not require approbation of a particular view. In essence, it requires the
acceptance of the public airing of disagreements and the refusal to silence unpopular views.’
‘He is upset that his multi-racial Christian congregation of 1000 will no longer have a
place to worship•f
‘This comes after•c. Was sold to an Islamic Academy for 2.7 million in November to
open a Madressa (School)•f
‘He was upset as Muslim Academy purchased the church•f.
 At page 74 of the (extremely messy and incoherent annexures) to the founding
affidavit is what may or may not be a newspaper article. It does however appear to be a
printout of that which is attached to the Sooknunan/GDWM answering affidavit identified
as an article from The Star dated 17 April. The headline is •eHoly War for one of
city•fs oldest churches•f. That headline is obviously the creation of the subeditor of the
newspaper who was tasked with editing the article for publication. The article refers to a
•ebitter legal battle•f, identifies who is involved in this •eholy war•f, has quotes from
spokesman Neels Engelbrecht and •eGDWM bishop Dr Ryan Sooknunan•f.
 There is another annexure (which is either a website or a blog) identified only as
•eMike Smith•fs Political Commentary•f. One •earticle•f of 15th April 2012 concerns
•ethe time when Mike became a Muslim•f and sets out his disillusionment with Islam in
crude and deliberately insulting verbiage.
 Another may or may not be an article or blog by Mike which comments on the
sale of the church and the reasons why Mike believes that Afrikaner people are
•eabandoning their useless church•f. He claims the DRC is •edying a slow and
painful death•f through •emostly emigration and the bullshit dogma they preach•f. He
comments on the role of the DRC during the apartheid era and the changing views of
the DRC in the 1980•fs. His language is robust – •eindoctrinating their
congregations•f, •eselling out to the forces of Satanic Marxism•f, •evociferous
whores of Babylon•f and •ethousands of dominees who have studies seven years will
join the unemployment line•f.
 In argument, I asked applicant•fs counsel to refer me to and identify the
objectionable passages and explain to me the grounds of such objection. I was not
referred to any further newspaper passages save those identified in the founding
 I can find nothing which is inflammatory or defamatory or inciteful or in any way
requiring to be interdicted in the two newspaper articles (Durban Post and the Star). As
far as the website/blog of Mike Smith – he expresses in crude and insulting language
his views of Islam. It does not concern the applicants. Insofar as his website/blog refers
to the Dutch Reformed Church generally – again his views are not relevant to this
application or the interdict sought against Sooknunan/GDWM. His comments may be
categorised as •efair comment•f on the past and present role of the DRC and would
certainly be covered under any reading of the right to freedom of expression. However,
since I do not know the connection between this Mike Smith and his website/blog and
Sooknunan/GDWM, even if my view were different, I would not find it appropriate to
take any action.
 There are many other annexures which appear to be emails or blogs or some
type of communication (one being a letter from Sooknunan to City Press). No specific
reference has been made to these in the founding affidavit. I am left to trawl through
these myself and try to identify that which is deserving of being interdicted.
Creation of Facebook wall
 The DRC has referred the court to some fifty pages of documents purporting to
be printouts from a Facebook page of which the source is •eGlory Divine World
Ministries•f and •ewww.glorydivine.co.za•f. It is claimed that •ethe respondent
created a website•f and that there are •efacebook articles published by the
respondent•f and that •ethe respondent also published the following words on
facebook•f and there are numerous extracts from •ecomments on facebook•f and
•eas it appears upon the facebook of the respondent as well as the support group•f.
 Sooknunan, rather disingenuously and ambiguously, denies •ethe creation by
myself of a website to incite religious hatred•f. However, he goes on to state that
•eas far as I am aware there exists a Facebook page set up by concerned community
members and some local printing houses•f and says that •eI am not an administrator
of this page but I have visited it•c. And deny the fact that I am responsible for the
posting of the content of this page•f. Later he refers to comments •emade in a
facebook page, neither created nor administered by myself•f.
 The old saying – •eif it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck and waddles like a
duck then it probably is a duck•f certainly applies in this case. This Facebook page is
announced as that of GDWM, it is only concerned with GDWM affairs and has
comments from GDWM. It is more than likely the Facebook page of GDWM. To my
mind the GDWM denial of responsibility for or control over this Facebook page is not
 There are several reasons for such finding:
a. The Facebook page is entitled •gGlory Divine GDwm•h which is a most
unusual and distinctive name which can only refer to the respondent in this
matter, particularly when one has regard to the content and subject matter of
the Facebook page which is entirely devoted to this spat between the DRC
There are almost daily entries from Glory Divine GDwm bringing readers up to date on
the dispute, inviting comment, referring to newspaper articles and Sooknunan•fs
response thereto. Quite clearly Sooknunan is the author thereof. He refers to himself in
the first person and to his actions and developments of which he has personal
knowledge. For example, the entry of the 19th April posts an article which appeared in
the Durban Post and then appear the words: •eGlory Divine GDwm: What is your view
on the issue?•f Quite clearly Sooknunan is soliciting views on the affairs of GDWM and
its disagreement with the DRC.
Numerous entries contain comments emanating from •eGlory Divine GDwm•f and the
respondent, under the name •eDr Ryan Sooknunan•f providing his address as
www.glorydivine.co.za. I have googled this address – it is the website of the GDWM.
Sooknunan and the •efirst lady•f appear in photographs. Full details are given of
GDWM activities, its bank details and a curriculum vitae of Sooknunan claiming that he
holds a •eDoctorate of Arts in Theology from the United States of America•f!
At some point the source of the documentation became •eFacebook SUPPORT
GROUP Glory Divine GDwm www.glorydivine.co.za•f which suggests that the other
comments were not from a •esupport group•f but from the GWDM itself.
 In short, I am unimpressed by Sooknunan•fs disavowal of what clearly appears
to be his or his church•fs Facebook page.
 The test in motion court proceedings where there is a dispute such as this was
set out in Plascon-Evans Paints Ltd v Van Riebeeck Paints Pty Ltd 1984(3) SA 623 (A)
‘In certain instances the denial by respondent of a fact alleged by the applicant may not
be such as to raise a real, genuine or bona fide dispute of fact. . . . If in such a case the
respondent has not availed himself of his right to apply for the deponents concerned to
be called for cross-examination under Rule 6(5)(g) of the Uniform Rules of Court. . . .
and the court is satisfied as to the inherent credibility of the applicant’s factual
averment, it may proceed on the basis of the correctness thereof and include this fact
among those upon which it determines whether the applicant is entitled to the final relief
which he seeks. . .’
 In this case I am not in the least persuaded by the denial by Sooknunan of his
responsibility for the GDWM website. He proclaims himself to be ‘the founder and
head’ of his church. He has a most professional and informative website for himself
and his church. That website provides details of church activities and also solicits funds.
It is not credible that he would or could permit another to utilise the name he has chosen
for his congregation/business enterprise to engage in the very dispute in which he is
most central. It is not credible that he would or could allow unknown persons to express
views for and on behalf of his congregation/business enterprise without having provided
the facility therefore.
 I postulated in argument a similar situation where a Facebook page or website
was set up under the aegis of and purporting to be that of the Roman Catholic Church
which advocated for contraception, abortion and gay marriage. In such circumstances
the Holy Father the Pope, the entire congregation of Cardinals and Archbishops (and in
South Africa the Catholic Bishops Conference) would certainly wish to and be entitled to
close down that publication. Yet Sooknunan is comfortable with use of his and his
congregation/business enterprise’s name, his dispute, his views by others and even
contributes to that Facebook page!
 In Dhladhla v Erasmus 1999 (1) SA 1065 (LCC), whilst affirming that ‘the
court should not lightly settle a factual dispute solely by weighing up the probabilities
emerging from the papers without the advantage of viva voce evidence’, the court
added the following to the passage in Plascon Evans quoted above:
‘If, on the papers before the Court, the probabilities overwhelmingly favour a specific
factual finding, the Court should take a robust approach and make that finding. The
same applies when a denial by a respondent of a fact alleged by an applicant is
insufficient to give rise to a real, genuine and bone fide dispute of fact. The approach
should, however, be followed with some circumspection.’
 Accordingly, I find that Sooknunan personally is the owner of the Facebook wall
entitled GDWM which postings form the subject matter of this application.
Regulation of Facebook Wall
 I am indebted to Mr Meyer, appearing for the applicant, who sent on to my
chambers after this application was heard, a judgment from the court of common pleas
of the 39th Judicial District of Pennsylvania – Franklin County Branch.9 I have no
knowledge of the status of this court nor whether its opinion10 could or should be of
assistance to this court. However, the judgment provides a useful overview of Facebook
and I quote therefrom:
‘Facebook is a free social networking site. To join a user must set up a profile, which is
accessible only through the user•fs ID (email) and a password. Facebook allows users
to interact with, instant message, email and friend or unfriend other users; to play online
games; and to upload notes, photos and videos. Facebook users can post status
updates about what they are doing or thinking. Users can post their current location to
other friends, suggest restaurant, businesses, or politicians or political causes to
•glike•h, and comment or •glike•h other friends•f posts.
Social networking websites like Facebook, Google+ and MySpace are ubiquitous.
Facebook which is only seven years old, has more than 800 million active users, 505 of
whom are active on the site at any given day (Facebook statistics as at 25 October
2011). Facebook has spawned a field of academic research, books and a movie.
Social networking websites also have a dark side – they have caused criminal
investigations and prosecutions and civil tort actions. . . .11
can access Facebook. For all practical purposes, anyone with an email account can set
Largent v Reed and Pena , No 2009-1823.
The issue for decision by that court was discovery and privilege in civil litigation.
Reference is made in the judgment to, inter alia, employee firing for posting on Facebook while at work, women
Facebook account and posted vulgar material therein, lawsuit concerning allegedly defamatory material posted in a
up a Facebook account. Users can set their privacy settings to various levels, although
a person•fs name, profile picture and user ID are always publicly available. At the least
restrictive setting, named •gpublic•h, all 800 million users can view whatever is on a
certain user•fs profile. At an intermediate level, only a user•fs Facebook friends can
view such information, and at the least restrictive, only the user can view his or her
profile. Facebook also currently allows users to customize their privacy settings.
Facebook alerts users that Facebook friends may •gtag•h them in any posting . . . .
•gYou can either approve each post individually or approve all posts by your friends. If
you approve a post and later change your mind, you can always remove it from your
profile. If you do not want someone to tag you in their posts, we encourage you to
reach out to them and give them that feedback. If that does not work, you can block
them. This will prevent them from tagging you going forward.•h (Facebook Data
Therefore, users of Facebook know that their information may be shared by default, and
a user must take affirmative steps to prevent the sharing of such information.•f12
 I have also had regard to the Wikipedia overview of ‘Facebook’. I am mindful
that the authors of Wikipedia are anonymous and that Facebook does not itself affirm
the accuracy or correctness of the content of Wikipedia. I have also had regard to
Facebook’s own site and policies. However, for the purposes of this judgment a full
and more detailed exegesis on Facebook is not necessary.
 The upshot is, that if Sooknunan or GDWM are indeed the initiators and creators
of the Facebook page identified as belonging to and being that of ‘Glorious Divine
GDwm’, he would be the ‘user’ who has created a personal profile and allowed
other users as ‘friends’ to exchange messages. These messages could be both
private or public and using the chat feature – in the present case the court appears to
have been furnished by DRC with the public or chat feature communications or postings
– after all those to which the DRC has been able to access. On this most public setting
it appears that anyone, anywhere in the world, with an interest in the dispute between
GDWM and the DRC can read and contribute to this discussion.
 Sooknunan is perfectly capable of regulating access to the Facebook page and
censoring postings thereto. This court does not know if Sooknunan has or has not, at
any stage, chosen to delete or censor any of the content thereon.
 Facebook is not perfectly secure - there has been hacking of accounts and
interference with profile pictures. There is no suggestion that this has happened in
GDWM facebook page.
Anonymity of Postings and Regulation by Creator
 Those who post on Facebook (even if they have been accepted as ‘friends’)
are not required to identify themselves by name, address or contact number. They may
choose to be as anonymous as anyone of the approximately 800 million Facebook
Largent v Reed and Pena , No 2009-1823 at 3 - 5.
users in the world. Some do so choose while others give their full names. This is clear
from the postings on the Facebook wall in question (the fifty or so pages attached to the
founding affidavit) where there are comments (sometimes frequently) from ‘Vince
Smith’, ‘Preshy Shokie’, ‘Jennifer Pillay’, ‘Adeola Akintoye’, ‘Lesiba Joel
Mashego’, ‘Esther Rousseau’ and so on.
 The implications of such anonymity are that those persons who have made
postings are not identified (save by a name which may nor may be their own), may or
may not be contactable, cannot be cited as parties to these proceedings and cannot be
interdicted from publishing anything which may have been or may be defamatory,
inciting, inflammatory or unlawful in any manner. Unless and until they are identified and
joined in proceedings, they are little different from persons who have attached a scrappy
piece of paper to a felt notice board in a passage with a pin or stub of prestik.
 However, Sooknunan has created and made available this notice board in a
public passage. He then has an obligation to take down those scrappy pieces of paper
which are shown to be unlawful in content or impact. He has made available the
opportunity for such unlawful content and is, in effect, the publisher thereof – much as a
newspaper takes responsibility for the content of its pages.
INFLAMMATION/ INCITEMENT/ DANGER
 Van Rooyen avers that he believes ‘my life may be in danger’ because ‘
some members of the public are extremely radical’. The newspaper and Facebook
‘articles’ ‘have created a ‘widespread response’ and he has been ‘accused
of acting contrary to Christian beliefs’.
 Van Rooyen’s specific complaints set out in his founding affidavit are:
a. The extracts from the Durban Post article to which I have already referred;
The call by Sooknunan that ‘prayer warriors are meeting…. If you are in the area
come and join us in the battle’;
b. A posting that:
‘the difference between Muslim leaders and Christian leaders is. The Muslim leaders if
they believe that they are fighting a righteous battle, they will be prepared or die. The
Christian leaders will stand behind the shadows and spectate for the outcome. …. I wish
we can be like the apostles, be ready to give our lives for the cause of Christ’;
c. A posting that ‘James says faith without work is dead… Thank God for
warriors like Martin Luther and great men of God’;
A posting that:
‘My brother I am with you, we praying for you… do you know how many of us are in
agreement with you in what is called a holy war, but what now do you expect the
Christian leaders to do?’;
d. A posting that:
‘At the centre of this holy war… accused the NG Kerk of being like Judas Iscariot and
selling them out for “30 pieces of silver”. . .’ Sooknunan said …’I will not allow Muslims
to buy the church. We are on Church Square not Madrassa Square’;
e. A posting that:
‘I decree Ezra 6 verse 7, 11…. That I must interfere with the work on temple of God . . .
any 1 violate this decree in anyway will have a beam pulled from their house, be tied up
2 it and flocked and their house will be reduced to a pile of rubble’;
f. A posting that:
‘This is a spiritual battle and we cannot allow ourselves to be sidetracked from a specific
prayer purpose… the prayer point must be firstly their law, Neels Engelbrecht, who is so
adamant to evict us, then Hennie van Rooyen who is driven by money and then the
Molana who is HELLBENT on turning a church into a madressa’; and
g. An email or posting:
i. ‘According to Mr Joe Brown… an elder of the Dutch Reform Church
mentions that there are about 30 Dutch Reformed members that has
been abandoned by Reverend Hennie van Rooyen and never visited
‘.. the Reverend Hennie van Rooyen has lied and went back on his promises and
agreement. . . .He already had a buyer in mind because of being money driven and not
people or Christian mandate driven’; and
‘Blatant lie. Reverend Hennie van Rooyen has not spent a cent on the building for
nearly two years’.
 The founding affidavit expresses extreme concern at the use of the following
words in the various documents: ‘holy war’, ‘this battle’, ‘to die’, ‘fire’, ‘sold Him for 30
pieces of silver’, ‘the NG Kerk should be ashamed of themselves’, ‘how can a Christian
sell the house of God’, and van Rooyen believes that he is referred to as ‘the devil’.
 Further complaints in the replying affidavit with reference to further annexures
attached thereto. I am not referring to those in this judgment. The applicant’s case
should have been made out in the founding affidavit.
 The protagonists in this dispute are both faith based organisations with
congregations and supporters who hold strong beliefs as to their faith of which the basis
is the Holy Bible, the manner in which the Word of God and religious practice ought to
be both observed and treated.
 The issue appears clear-cut to both groups. The owner of a church building no
longer requires it and has sold it to another group who will be free to use it (presumably
once it has been deconsecrated). The tenant of the building does not want to leave the
building but cannot afford to buy it and resents that another group can afford to
 Of course, Sooknunan can take a number of quite lawful actions to frustrate the
sale or remain in occupation. Firstly, he can try and change the mind of the DRC that
the property should be sold to anyone at all or for a price more than he or his
congregation could raise. Secondly, he can try and raise the amount for which the DRC
is prepared to sell the building – in this he has been unsuccessful. Thirdly, he can try
and obtain so much public support for his ministry and continuing occupation that the
DRC will feel constrained to support Sooknunan/GDWM by forsaking the DRC’s need
for the funds and allowing Sooknunan/GDWM to remain on site. This is what
Sooknunan/GDWM has chosen to do. Very clearly he has launched a publicity
 The campaign appears to involve a number of avenues. There are newspaper
articles to alert the public or interested parties to the issue – but this is a limited avenue
since the issue does not indefinitely remain newsworthy and one or two articles appear
(thus far) to be the limit. There are approaches to former and current church members
and occupants of the Abraham Kriel home in the hope that they could or would add their
voices to the objection to the sale and the pending evicting of Sooknunan/GDWM – but
this does not appear to have taken the matter any further. There is a cheap and
unending means of expressing the GDWM view on Facebook - Sooknunan and his
members and any supporters can express their views endlessly – but this is somewhat
of a closed circle with limited impact.
 Of course, the campaign has the added frisson of the identity of the purchaser.
The DRC church is sold to a Muslim institute. The campaign makes much of the sale to
non-Christians, ‘heathens’, that the church will be ‘turned into a mosque’.
 It is commonsense that communication reflects the user. Elizabethans in the 16th
century lit fires on hills to alert the danger of the Spanish Armada; rural people in Africa
beat drums to advise the arrival of British redcoats; artillery officers used pigeons and
the heliograph to tell guns where to fire on opposing trenches in the First World War;
and in the twentieth century the telegram and telephone enabled persons to compose
messages and use individualised language to share information, ideas, thoughts,
feelings with each other. Yesterday it was the photocopy and the telefax and today it’s
the email and social networking such as Facebook.
 However, the means of communication is not only pen and paper or keyboard
and screen but the language utilised. It is obvious that language is differently used for
different purposes – lovers use affectionate words and their own shorthand; businesses
use the truncated style of invoices and receipts; lawyers and judge tend to use Latin
tags and legal aphorisms; and politicians are fond of transparent inclusivity.
 Many religions have both an oral and a written tradition as well as a stylized
mode of expression and choice of language. Certainly, the Protestants (of which the
Dutch Reformed Church is a member) have always spread the Word of God and His
teachings through preaching and reference to both the Old and New Testaments. The
independent and more Pentecostal churches (of which GDWM appears to be another
offshoot) place heavy reliance upon missionary and prophetic preaching coupled with
the literalism of the Holy Bible.
 It is therefore not surprising that a dispute between faith based organisations
should be aired through language and particularly through words and language
construction which reflects the somewhat archaic usage of the many versions of the
King James Bible. Preaching, prayer, hymns all rely on repetition, rhythm, sometimes
rhyme. Religious communication is frequently allegorical and often metaphorical. What
is said or written is designed to catch the ear and the mind and the heart of the listener,
reader or singer, the congregant, believer or nonbeliever.
 Religious and church sources often reflect the turmoil and violence of earlier
generations (the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Reformation) and the continuing and
individual spiritual struggle of good versus evil. The Bible is robust in its thought and
teaching and in its language. Preaching is not wishy-washy but also directive and
strong. And, one should point out, aggressive and warlike or militant. The Church of
England refers to itself as ‘The Church Militant’. One can think of hymns such as ‘
Onward Christian Soldiers marching as to war’ and phrases which have entered the
common English speaking lexicon such as ‘Fire and brimstone heaped on one’s
 Small wonder then that those who have been interested in, occupied with or
even distressed by this dispute over the sale of the church building and the potential
eviction of the GDWM have fallen back upon the language of their church, their Bible,
The Content of the Media Campaign
 Newspapers have titled this dispute a ‘holy war’ which is a snappy, ironic and
familiar phrase. It doesn’t mean actual weaponry and soldiers. The phrase can be
applied to any dispute which is taken seriously, obsessively, fervently. It can be applied
to rugby or soccer league tables as much as to the Crusades of the 14th Century.
 The metaphor within which this dispute is situated is that of ‘the holy war’ -
there are ‘prayer warriors’ and ‘warriors like Martin Luther’ and ‘the battle’
and ‘the spiritual battle’. All familiar language in a religious context – certainly not
incitement to put on Kefflar vests and take out AK 47s.
 One posting bemoans the absence of strong Christian leadership and wishes ‘
we can be like the apostles, ready to give our lives for the cause of Christ’. Hardly, a
call to shed the blood of anyone since none of the Apostles is recorded to have killed or
harmed or injured anyone else. Martyrdom was their experience of loss of life.
 Although there are questions such as ‘What now do you expect the Christian
leaders to do?’, the only response is to call to the general public to meet in prayer.
‘The prayer warriors are meeting’, ‘we are praying for you’, ‘we cannot be
sidetracked from a specific prayer purpose’. Individual ‘prayer points’ are identified
- Engelbrecht, Van Rooyen and the Muslim purchaser of the building.
 One posting refers to interference with the house of God resulting in reduction of
that person’s house ‘to a pile of rubble’. This is much the same as saying ‘what
goes around comes around’ or ‘do as you would be done by’ but it certainly is no
call for destruction of church or individual property.
 I have not dealt with the additional postings attached to the replying affidavit.
However, one annexure to the replying affidavit is an email dated 13 October 2011 from
Sooknunan to the DRC in which he repeats his ‘disgust’ at the sale of the church to
‘heathens’ and warns that the ‘congregation is planning a peaceful march lifting
the banner of Christ – stating stop selling our church to muslims to be turned into
mosques. They will march to NG Kerk Vergesig and to TV stations, media etc.’ This
seems to be the high point of Sooknunan’s activities – a march which is intended to
be peaceful. The proposed banners express a point of view which is hardly
ecumenical as between Christians and Muslims but then neither usually claims to be
part of the same faith community or tolerant of each other. There is certainly no call to
violence or encouragement of religious hatred.
 We have no knowledge of who and how many have read the newspaper articles.
We certainly have no idea of who and how many have read the Facebook commentary.
The Facebook readership may be local, regional, national or international.
 This court has not been told if tens or twenties or hundreds or thousands have
taken up the campaign, the cause and attended at the church premises in support of the
GDWM. This court does not know if the whole campaign has been a total flop.
 The outcome of the campaign appears to have been nil. There is still an impasse
and the parties are still at loggerheads.
 In argument, the DRC’s counsel pointed out that it would take just one person
to perform some precipitate action – but who and where this one person is, what he
or she would do, where they would do it – are all unknown. The crucial question is
whether Sooknunan has published anything which would incite or inflame anyone to
perform any unlawful action – the answer is in the negative.
Making Public the email addresses of Van Rooyen and Attorney
 Van Rooyen states that his name and email address has been supplied to the
public by Sooknunan and that both he and his attorney ‘received and still receive
intimidating and threatening emails and telephone calls, wherein we are abused and
 After the hearing I was provided with a copy of a Facebook posting of 8th April,
posted by ‘Glory Divine GDwm’ stating that ‘he person that is adamant and
driving this – Hennie van rooyen his email is [email address]. . . and his attorney
Engelbrecht from Northcliff, email is [email address]. . ..’
 Sooknunan has answered that these email addresses were already available to
the public. If that is the case then one must query why it was necessary for Sooknunan
to place this posting on Facebook. There can be no doubt that the purpose of posting
this information was to encourage and to enable readers of this Facebook page to
communicate with both Van Rooyen and Engelbrecht to express their points of view
about this dispute.
 I consider it a gross invasion of privacy to furnish an individual’s personal
contact details on a public forum such as this Facebook wall. It exposes the recipient to
unsolicited and unwanted messages. It interferes with the recipient’s normal
communications to others. It is private information which only Van Rooyen or
Engelbrecht have the right to impart or make public.
The Death Threat
 Van Rooyen received a phone call from cellphone 082 203 9143 on 30th March
2012 – ‘Hennie van Rooyen, in jou kar huis of by jou kerk sal jy uitgesit word’. There
is no doubt that this is a threat and Van Rooyen is entitled to be most distressed as a
result and to fear that someone who has gone to the trouble to make the call may carry
through on this threat.
 After the threat and ‘having had sight of the various articles posted on the
website’, Van Rooyen approached the DRC attorney intending that the attorney ‘
assist me in laying criminal charges against the individual who threatened me with
death’. Van Rooyen apparently did lay a complaint and states that he ‘supplied the
cellphone number in my possession to the South African Police Services’ but says he
has not heard anything from the SAPS and ‘doubt whether they could trace the
person who threatened me’.
 The court does not know the date when the complaint was laid nor to which
station of the SAPS. It is inexplicable that it is not possible to trace the cell number.
Frequently, in these courts officers from both MTN and Vodacom give evidence about
cellphone records. Obviously certain procedures have to be taken for such information
to be disclosed but there is nothing to suggest that Van Rooyen and the DRC have
been insistent that the appropriate steps are taken to pursue the maker of this call.
 What is noticeable is that Van Rooyen does not allege that the cell number is that
of Sooknunan – whose number he must know since they have communicated
 The result is that the call was made by an unknown person and this court has no
information on which one could conclude that he has any connection with
Sooknunan/GDWM. He might simply have been a newspaper reader. He might or might
not be a Facebook user.
 I cannot find that the maker of the cellphone threat is a member of the GDWM
congregation or even that he was inspired or encouraged by the Facebook postings.
Although possible, there is no evidence of any causal connection between the lobbying
campaign and the threat.
 In any event I have found that the postings on Facebook are not inflammatory or
inciteful to any unlawful action.
INSULT, DEFAMATION, INJURY
Van Rooyen’s Care for the Congregation
 Clearly there is some disaffection amongst the former congregants of Vergesig
DRC since there is continual reference to a former elder, Mr Joe Brown, who has
allegedly said that Van Rooyen has neglected the remaining thirty or so members of the
congregation. It is stated in an email from Sooknunan to City Press that ‘about 30
Dutch Reformed members that has been abandoned by Reverend Hennie van Rooyen
and never visited or consulted’.
 I do not know if Brown is a member of the DRC or the GDWM congregations. In
any event, he is not a party to these proceedings.
 Understandably, Van Rooyen finds this allegation distressing. He is an Ordained
Minister of the Dutch Reformed Church and is Chairman of the Council of the DRC,
Vergesig congregation. His mission and calling, as minister of religion, includes the
provision of pastoral services to members of his congregation. To suggest otherwise is
to call into question his ministry and his commitment to his duties.
 Such an allegation is irrelevant to the dispute between DRC, Van Rooyen and
Sooknunan/GDWM. Such an allegation does not contribute to understanding or
resolving the dispute about the sale of the building. It is extraneous to any lobbying or
campaign to try to prevent the sale and eviction. This allegation cannot possibly be
covered by the licence one gives to those lobbying against the sale in the exercise of
their rights of free speech and expression.
 This allegation is simply an attempt to tarnish Van Rooyen as an individual and
as a churchman. It is an attempt to ‘play the man and not the ball’ in the sense that
the allegation goes to the character of one of the parties rather than the merits of their
 This is offensive, insulting and injurious.
 Van Rooyen is also concerned that Sooknunan avers that the DRC has not
maintained the church premises which he considers to be defamatory. In return,
Sooknunan deals at length with expenditure by himself on the church premises. This
is not an issue which this court is able to determine.
Van Rooyen and Judas’ 30 pieces of Silver
 In an email from Sooknunan (apparently to City Press) he states that the
Reverend Hennie van Rooyen is ‘money driven and not Christian mandate driven’.
In a posting on Facebook by Glory Divine GDwm it is stated that the ‘prayer point’
must be ‘Hennie van Rooyen who is driven by money’.
 Van Rooyen avers in his founding affidavit that there is a posting on Facebook
that the DRC and Van Rooyen ‘sold Him for 30 pieces of silver’. I cannot find this
posting. In the founding affidavit there is reference to a publication which Sooknunan
confirms is from the Star and has attached a photocopy of the article. Therein appears
‘GDWM… accuse the NG Kerk of being “like Judas Iscariot” and “selling them
out for 30 pieces of silver”.’ The quotations in the Star are clearly meant to
represent quotations from the GDWM spokesman - identified in the article as Bishop
 The article and the quotes do not identify Van Rooyen and do not state that ‘He
’ (ie Jesus Christ) was sold for 30 pieces of silver. It is the DRC who is stated to
have sold “them” (ie Sooknunan/GDWM).
 Anyone who knows or knows of the New Testament and the story of Christ
knows that the person of Jesus Christ was sold into captivity and death by one of his
own followers, Judas Iscariot, who was rewarded for this betrayal with payment of thirty
pieces of silver.
 To suggest or state or publish that a church or churchmen or an ordained
minister in the Christian religion is behaving in a manner akin to the betrayal of Jesus
Christ is to attack the very foundation of his mission and profession and personal
 It is appreciated that feelings run high when finances prevent a church
congregation from retaining what they consider to be their church premises and they
face eviction as a result. But there remain boundaries. Just as Sooknunan expected
more understanding from another Christian faith based organisation, so he must
appreciate that he should show respect and courtesy to the fundamental beliefs of the
minister of that church.
 These statements are injurious in the extreme. They are hurtful and intended to
be so. By definition they are defamatory because there is no suggestion at all that there
is any truth in the statement that the DRC (which includes Van Rooyen) is unfaithful to
their Christ or his teachings or that their souls can be purchased for money.
Objection to sale of church to Muslims
 The objection to the sale of the church appears to be primarily based on the sale
to a third party which will result in the eviction of Sooknunan and his church.
However, there is also a very strongly expressed objection to the sale of Christian
church premises to a Muslim academy.
 The postings from Sooknunan and other persons are replete with references to
‘heathens’, ‘mosques’ and so on.
 This application does not purport to represent the interests of the Muslim
community or the purchasers of the church. The inflammatory language is attributed to
Christians and members of both the DRC and GDWM congregations. There is no
suggestion that it is directed at any individual or group of Muslims and the complaint is
that the DRC and Van Rooyen are being targeted. The insulting and injurious language
is similarly described as being hurtful to and harmful to the DRC and Van Rooyen.
 The language is intemperate and certainly not ecumenical. But what is written
under the name of Sooknunan and GDWM is not strictly untrue - persons who are not
Christians are traditionally described as ‘heathen’ and there is dissociation between
these major faith based congregations.
ACCESS TO BUILDING
 The building is the property of the DRC. Sooknunan is the tenant. There is no
reason why the landlord cannot reasonably access its premises for purposes of
inspection and ensuring the good order of the premises. There is also no reason why
the landlord cannot reasonably access its premises for purposes of showing same to
potential buyers and allowing such buyers to inspect same from time to time.
 Sooknunan denies that the DRC have been denied access.
 This dispute cannot be resolved on the papers.
INTERFERENCE WITH SALE
 The DRC is quite entitled to sell to the church premises to whomsoever it wishes.
Sooknunan’s counsel was quick to concede this in argument. Sooknunan and his
congregation may not like the sale to a third party and be particularly enraged that the
sale is to a non-Christian entity. But this gives them no right to unlawfully interfere with
marketing or conclusion of a sale agreement or implementation of the sale agreement.
 Press interviews, Facebook campaign and letters are not unacceptable. Prayers
can never be objectionable. A lawful march approved of by the relevant authorities
cannot be prevented.
 There is nothing before me to suggest that anything has been done to dissuade
the purchaser from proceeding with the sale – no approaches to any individual or
member of the Muslim community, no threats that they will not be permitted to take
occupation or utilise the building. I am unable to find that the purchasers have not been
granted access to the premises for any reason. This is an issue in dispute and no
details have been given.
 Clearly, as pointed out in the founding affidavit, the purchaser needs to be
assured it/he can take occupation – that condition is in the hands of the application for
eviction of Sooknunan and his congregation.
 I have not found any incitement to violence or inflammatory language or
publication of and concerning the DRC or van Rooyen which would justify an interdict. I
have found that certain statements of and concerning the DRC and van Rooyen are
injurious and harmful and should be interdicted. I have found that the email addresses
of van Rooyen and the attorney for the DRC and van Rooyen should not be disclosed
on a public website. I have found that the death threat cannot be attributed to
Sooknunan/GDWM or his Facebook page. I have found no interference with access to
the building of the sale of the premises.
 The issue of costs is not an easy one to decide. On the one hand most of the
complaints made by the applicants have not been accepted and the relief sought by
them has not been granted. On the other hand, Sooknunan has not behaved with
decorum or treated his co-ministers with respect. But the law is not concerned with
decorum or respect but with lawfulness or otherwise. I have found Sooknunan’s
version as regards Facebook to be unacceptable and therefore untrue. But that was as
finding on papers and without further evidence. I have found Sooknunan’s crusade
offensive – to the seller and to the purchaser. But the law is not concerned with what I,
as an individual, find offensive.
 In the result I must find that the applicants have been substantially unsuccessful
in their application and the respondent has been substantially successful. Costs must
follow that result.
 An order is made as follows:
a. Ryan Sooknunan also known as ‘Dr Ryan Sooknunan’ also known as ‘Bishop
Ryan Sooknunan’ trading as or operating under the name of ‘Glory Divine
World Ministries’ is interdicted and restrained from uttering, stating, writing,
publishing or in any other manner or mode suggesting or implying that the
Dutch Reformed Church Vergesig or any of its congregants or Hendrik Abel
i. Are betrayers of the Christian faith and their commitment to the
Word of Jesus Christ or Jesus Christ;
Are actuated by commercial considerations in their ministry or pastoral work or in their
membership of the DRC or their management of the affairs of the DRC, which
commercial considerations are opposed to or inimical to their commitment as
Christians, to their faith, membership of the DRC, ministry in the DRC;
Are in any way to be compared or likened to Judas Iscariot or any person who is
understood to be a betrayer of Christ, a traitor to Christianity or a heretic to the
teachings of the Christian faith;
The words ‘Judas Iscariot’ and ‘thirty pieces of silver’ are not again to be utilised
in the context of this dispute between the DRC and Sooknunan; and
Are failing or have failed, in any manner whatsoever, to carry out their pastoral duties
towards and for any members of their DRC Vergesig or any other DRC congregation.
b. Ryan Sooknunan also known as ‘Dr Ryan Sooknunan’ also known as ‘Bishop
Ryan Sooknunan’ trading as or operating under the name ‘Glory Divine World
i. Is directed forthwith to remove the email addresses of Hendrik Abel
Van Rooyen and Attorney Neels Engelbrecht from the GDWM
Facebook page/wall and any information concerning the person or
residence of business operations of van Rooyen or Engelbrecht from
such public domain; and
To make no further disclosure of any personal or private information of and concerning
Hendrik Abel van Rooyen or Attorney Neels Engelbrecht.
c. Applicants are to pay the respondents taxed party and party costs.
DATED AT JOHANNESBURG THIS 14TH DAY OF MAY 2012
APPLICANTS: G Meyer
Instructed by Neels Engelbrecht Attorneys, Johannesburg
RESPONDENT: A Ayaye
Instructed by Itzikowitz Attorneys, Johannesburg