Harassment Interdicts and the risks involved

01 December 2021 ,  Dries Knoetze 146

“My neighbours and I have a feud which feud dates back as far as I can remember. I believe that none of us can exactly remember the reason for the feud but the feud has now turned violent in that my neighbours have started threatening me with death and damaged my property. Can I obtain an interdict against them and what risks are involved when obtaining such an interdict?”

In order to answer the question above one has to apply the provisions of The Protection from Harassment Act, Act 17 of 2011 which was gazetted to:

  1. Afford victims of harassment an effective remedy against such behaviour; and
  2. Introduce measures which seek to enable the relevant organs of state to give full effect to the provisions of the Act.

In terms of the act any person who alleges that he or she is being subjected to harassment may rely on this Act to apply for the relief as set out herein under.

If you intend to apply for a harassment interdict you must know that Harassment is defined by the Act as follows:

Means directly or indirectly engaging in conduct that the respondent knows or ought to know-

  1. Causes harm or inspires the reasonable belief that harm may be caused to the complainant or a related person by unreasonably-
  1. Following, watching, pursuing or accosting of the complainant or a related person, or loitering outside of or near the building or place where the complainant or a related person resides, works, carries on business, studies or happens to be;
  2. Engaging in verbal, electronic or any other communication aimed at the complainant or a related person, by means, whether or not conversation ensues or;
  3. Sending, delivering or causing the delivery of letters, telegrams, packages, facsimiles, electronic mail or other objects to the complainant or a related person or leaving them where they will be found by, given to, or brought to the attention of, the complainant or a related person.

From the above you should realize that the action of harassment as defined should be continued, which means that the action by the respondent should occur more than once. A once of altercation between you and an unknown person driving a taxi cannot be classified as a form of harassment.

Harm is defined as any mental, psychological, physical or economic harm and should you as applicant be able to prove that at least a reasonable expectation of harm could have been expected from the actions of the respondent.

In my experience, I found that most of the applications for a harassment interdict lodged, does not comply with the provisions of the act, as most of the incidents are either once of occurrences or no real harm was suffered by the applicant or in some instances the harassment interdicts were used as a sword over the head of the respondent for another dispute.

In these cases, you should further note the provisions of Section 16 of the act which deals with costs.

In terms of Section 16, the court may only make an order as to costs against any party if it is satisfied that the party in question has acted frivolously, vexatiously, or unreasonably.

It is therefore advisable that before you rush to court to obtain a harassment interdict, you approach an attorney who specializes in these types of matters, for advice and guidance.   

Reference List:

  • Protection from Harassment Act, Act 17 of 2011