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SABC lawyers stop Project Spear screening

2013-05-20 07:52
Cape Town - There was high drama on the fringes of the Franschhoek Literary Festival on Saturday when the SABC threatened to ­urgently ­interdict the screening of a ­documentary film.

Bizarrely, the film, Project Spear, was commissioned and paid for by the public broadcaster, which is now embroiled in a protracted battle with film maker Sylvia Vollenhoven over the rights.

"In the old days, we had cops doing the dirty work. Now, we have highly paid attorneys working on hourly rates doing it – using even more public money to put a stop to a film made with public money," an exasperated Vollenhoven told City Press over the phone from the Western Cape.

The documentary was to be screened as part of a session hosted by investigative magazine Noseweek at the annual ­festival.

The day before the advertised screening, Vollenhoven says, she received a letter from the SABC’s attorneys, Werksmans, saying the broadcaster would not tolerate their property being screened.

This is despite the broadcaster's decision to shelve the film.

A judge on stand-by

Project Spear tells the story of a former MI6 spy who allegedly presented the South African government with a plan – called Project Spear – to recover billions of rands misappropriated by apartheid-era bankers, officials and politicians from state coffers.

The feature-length documentary ­questions why the ANC allegedly refused to take action to bring apartheid leaders to book.

On Saturday morning, the organisers decided to show a one-minute clip of the film, but Vollenhoven said two lawyers from Werksmans who were there ­immediately took out their cellphones and said they had a judge on stand-by to issue an ­urgent interdict.

Noseweek editor Martin Welz had ­earlier told City Press he would not air the film because "frankly, we don’t have the resources to fight an interdict that we may or may not win".

"I don't have an extra half-a-million for legal fees. The time and risk is too great, and I have agreed not to show it."

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said: "The SABC owns the rights to Project Spear and no one has the right to exploit those rights without the approval of the SABC."

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