Joost accepts court ruling

FILE PICTURE: Former Springbok rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Former Springbok rugby player Joost van der Westhuizen has accepted the dismissal of an urgent application to stop the publication and distribution of a book about him, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

“Mr Van der Westhuizen… [his estranged wife Amor] Vittone and their families are disappointed by Judge Eberhard Bertelsmann’s ruling but accept the decision,” Odette Schwegler said in a statement.

“Joost thanks his supporters, from friends and family to the South African public at large. Their messages of love and support are greatly valued.” Bertelsmann said in the High Court in Pretoria on Friday that Van der Westhuizen had not established any right to such drastic inroads into freedom of expression.

Van der Westhuizen took celebrity reporter Gavin Prins and publishers Random House Struik to court after realising that Prins’s book titled “Joost & Amor” was about to hit the shelves.

Although Prins refused to give him an advance copy of the book, Van der Westhuizen believed it would infringe his right to privacy, dignity and life. He said the hype surrounding the book would cause severe stress which could harm his already compromised health.

Van der Westhuizen suffers from motor neuron disease, a fatal illness which has already confined him to a wheelchair and has severely affected his speech and movement.

The judge found there was no exceptional evidence to support Van der Westhuizen’s claim that his health would suffer if publication of the book went ahead. Schwegler said the fact that Prins and the publishers decided to release the book at “this particular time in Mr Van der Westhuizen’s life raises serious ethical questions”.

“With nothing new, other than Mr Prins’s perspective on old news, the only significant impact the book is likely to have is on the Van der Westhuizens and Vittones opening old wounds for families who have put the past behind them,” she said.

“Mr Van der Westhuizen will continue to fight motor neuron disease, for which there is no known cure… and he will continue to protect his family, most of all his children, as best he can.”

She said Van der Westhuizen and Vittone had no financial interest in the sale of the book.



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