The High Court in Johannesburg on Friday morning ruled that the EFF must apologise to SABC journalist Thandeka Gqubule and Prof Anton Harber for false statements made about them related to the late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
They will need to publish the apology within 24 hours and pay damages of R40,000 to each of them, as well as having to pay their legal costs.
Judge Lebogang Modiba ruled that EFF party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi had defamed them in a party statement.
At the end of 2018, the court asked the EFF to prove its April 2018 allegations that the journalists had been apartheid-era Stratcom spies.
The ruling came after a video was posted (and then removed) by the now defunct Huffington Post SA shortly after Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s death. It showed a clip from her 2017 interview in which she addressed how there were journalists hellbent on writing negative stories about her.
Madikizela-Mandela alleged: “There were reporters who specialised in writing very negative stories about me like Thandi [Thandeka] Gqubule. They were working for what was then called the Weekly Mail. I was pleasantly surprised to see Anton Harber talking like that because he was editor … and the Weekly Mail was so anti-ANC, anti-me. They actually did the job for Stratcom.”
Following the interview, the EFF released a statement condemning the two journalists and Sanef’s silence on the matter.
Following the statement, the two journalists gave party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi a notice of motion asking the party to retract their statement and apologise. They also demanded damages of R1 million each.
However, the EFF issued a response letter, stating that it simply forwarded allegations made by Madikizela-Mandela in an interview with a media house, and that Gqubule and Harber should take up a case against that third party.
But the journalists believed the EFF had a case to answer for, particularly since Madikizela-Mandela herself had never actually alleged they were spies or on the payroll of the apartheid government. She was probably implying that, from her perspective, they had unwittingly been duped into spreading a narrative that suited the apartheid state.
Gqubule told eNCA at the time: “If somebody wants to jump around in a red onesie and call me a spy, that’s their prerogative. I think they can do that, it’s their right. But they must also respect my right to dignity, to truth, to being a journalist and my right to earn a living. The damage done or the damage that they attempted to do has been humungous; it’s difficult to even quantify.”
(Compiled by Charles Cilliers)