In the recent Supreme court of appeal case, United Democratic Movement and another v Lebashe Investment Group (Pty) Ltd and others  JOL 49361 (SCA), our Courts’ position on the appealability of interim orders were once again considered.
In various remedies available to litigants, interim orders often form an integral part of the process of obtaining finality in a dispute. The aim is to provide immediate relief fairly while allowing final consideration before the order has a final and binding effect. Some practical examples include interim interdicts (rule nisi), interim protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act 116 of 1998 or the Protection from Harassment Act 17 of 2011, to name just a few.
When the above appeal was heard on 16 November 2020, the matter was struck off the court roll. The reason was that the Gauteng Division of the High Court order, was not appealable. Notwithstanding, leave to appeal having been granted by the High Court. The order was an interdict pending an action to be instituted by the respondents.
The circumstances giving rise to the litigation have their origin in a letter sent on 26 June 2018 to the President of the Republic of South Africa by the appellants, the United Democratic Movement (UDM), a political party, and its leader Mr Bantu Holomisa. The letter contained allegations that several business respondents had conducted themselves unlawfully in various ways concerning the Public Investment Corporation (PIC). A request was made to the President to cause these allegations against the respondents to be investigated. The letter was also published to the world on the UDM website. The respondents contend the remarks were defamatory. As a result, the High Court granted an interim interdict against the appellants forbidding the repetition of certain remarks they had made publicly about the several respondents.
The core principle reaffirmed by Court was the importance of the principle of “irreparable harm” and highlighted the below as a principle:
“The primary consideration in determining whether it is in the interests of justice for a litigant to be granted leave to appeal against an interim order of execution is, therefore, whether irreparable harm would result if leave to appeal is not granted”.
In this case, the effect of the order did not cause irreparable harm. For that reason, interim orders are not appealable in terms of this judgement.