Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema tweeted on Thursday that the party had instructed its attorneys to appeal a court ruling that found the red berets’ comments on former finance minister Trevor Manuel “defamatory and false”.
We have instructed our attorneys to appeal; not even courts should be allowed to silence the truth also if that truth is against the Thuma Mina group of the ruling elite.
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) May 30, 2019
The court ordered on Thursday that the red berets must, within 24 hours, remove the statements about Manuel from all the party’s media platforms and that it should apologise to him.
The respondents, the party as the first, EFF spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi as second, and Malema as the third respondent, were interdicted by the court “from publishing any statement that says or implies that Manuel “is engaged in corruption and nepotism in the selection of the Commissioner of the South African Revenue Service”.
“The respondents are ordered jointly and severally to pay damages of R500,000 to the applicant (Manuel),” the judgment reads.
Manuel indicated that, should the damages be awarded to him, he would donate the R500,000 to charity.
The respondents were further ordered to jointly and individually pay Manuel’s costs on an attorney and client scale.
Malema tweeted: “Not even courts should be allowed to silence the truth, also if that truth is against the Thuma Mina group of the ruling elite.”
In a statement, the EFF said the judgement on Thursday “related to our correct observation, which Manuel does not dispute, that he was conflicted in interviewing Edward Kieswetter because they are friends”.
The party said it had made the statement about Manuel in a political context.
“Our constitutional jurisprudence is very clear on separating the standard to be applied to allow for free political speech which must not be confused with normal private interactions. The court seriously erred in not applying the correct standard,” the statement reads.
The statement further reads that the EFF finds it surprising and unusual that the matter “was accorded the status of urgency when in our view there was nothing urgent about it”.
“It is concerning that there is a growing view among South Africans that our courts are too eager to find in favour of the so-called Thuma Mina or New Dawn faction of the ruling party even when the law seems very clearly against them. We, however, have faith that this has not yet affected our entire judiciary hence we are appealing to the higher courts.”
In his judgment, Judge J Matojane said the party’s conduct and that of Ndlozi and Malema “has been egregious and hurtful”.
“The motive and conduct of the respondents are relevant. They stubbornly refuse to retract, apologise or remove the impugned statement from their social media platforms, when it is evident that they should do so.
“These factors collectively establish the existence of actual malice and a desire to hurt Manuel in his person, and professionally, through the widespread dissemination of the defamatory statement.”
In a statement in March, the EFF accused Manuel of nepotism and corruption in influencing the appointment of new Sars commissioner Kieswetter.
Manuel approached the high court after the party accused him of a conflict of interest in the appointment.
Manuel was the head of a selection panel that interviewed candidates for the post of commissioner. The tax agency had been without a permanent head since Tom Moyane was suspended and later fired in 2018. The panel made recommendations, but was not involved in Kieswetter’s final selection.
(Compiled by Makhosandile Zulu)