EFF ordered to pay Trevor Manuel R500‚000 for defamation

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel.
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

The EFF has been ordered to apologise to former Finance minister Trevor Manuel for defamation and peddling false information against him.

This is in connection with a March, 27 statement released by the EFF in which the political party accused Manuel of nepotism, corruption and conducting secret interviews in the selection process of the commissioner of the South African Revenue Services (Sars) which saw Edward Kieswetter being appointed as the revenue services boss.

The EFF claimed that Manuel had a close personal and business relationship with Kieswetter.

Justice Elias Matojane ruled that the EFF’s remarks were defamatory, false and ordered the party to not only remove the statement, published on Twitter, but to also offer an unconditional apology within 24 hours.

The EFF, its spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and its president Julius Malema have also been ordered to jointly pay Manuel R500,000 in damages. They must also pay his legal fees on an “attorney and client scale”.

Manuel plans to donate the R500 000 to a charitable organisation.

The court found that the fact that Manuel and Kieswetter had an employment association “many years ago” does not prove bias on the part of Manuel and that his disclosure of this as well as recusal shows he avoided conflict of interest.

The court also found that the EFF’s assertion that the selection process was secretive was not true.

“The process was open and transparent, even if the interviews themselves were not public,” read the judgment.

The court said it believed that the EFF, its spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi and its president Julius Malema, had a clear intention of hurting Manuel’s public image after refusing to retract their statement and therefore believes the amount requested should be paid.

“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 Mr Manuel in his person and professionally, through the widespread dissemination of the defamatory statement. Such conduct warrants a punitive costs order,” the judgment read.

EFF has indicated its plans to appeal the judgment "related to our correct observation, which Manuel does not dispute, that he was conflicted in interviewing Edward Kieswetter because they are friends".

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