Panyaza Lesufi to sue Afrikaans author for defamation

Panyaza Lesufi
Panyaza Lesufi
Image: Simphiwe Nkwali

A legal battle is brewing between Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi and Afrikaner author and publisher Dan Roodt.

Lesufi is dragging Roodt, who accused him of making racist statements against Afrikaans and Afrikaners, to court.

On the other hand, Roodt said he was also ready for the court case, adding the proceedings should be in Afrikaans.

Lesufi has been accused by right wingers of targeting Afrikaans and Afrikaans schools as he called for one language of instruction.

Last month, Roodt posted on his Twitter account @danroodt: "#Verwoerd never slighted any racial or language group in South Africa; I have read all his speeches. Yet Lesufi makes racist statements about Afrikaans and Afrikaners. What right does this racist have to remove Verwoed's name from anything? Lesufi isn't even South African!" Roodt has refused to apologise to Lesufi.

Lesufi's legal representative Peter Harris said: "Last month, we received an instruction from our client [Lesufi] to pursue legal action against Roodt. We demanded an apology or retraction of his statement on Twitter, but he refused to do any of the two and now we are in the process of issuing summons and suing him for defamation of character," Harris said.

An e-mail from Roodt to Lesufi's legal representative clearly stated that he is not backing off. Part of the letter, which has since been posted by Lesufi on his Twitter account, reads: "It appears to me that an apology at this stage is not necessary.

"Your client, the Honourable Andrek Panyaza Lesufi has repeatedly, in the media and elsewhere, made anti-Afrikaans statements, including contempt for the Afrikaans language as a medium for education - and a medium for higher education. Due to his dislike for Afrikaans and Afrikaners, I do not find your client to be a patriotic South African."

Lesufi said he had no choice but to sue Roodt for defamation of character following his insults.

Lesufi wrote on his Twitter account, @Lesufi,: "This man, instead of retracting his baseless accusations that I am not a South African, he is now insulting me and my parents."

Roodt said his comment on Lesufi not being a South African originally related to his express hatred of Afrikaans.

"Lesufi is known for insulting whites and especially Afrikaners. He insults our language by characterising it as inferior to English. It is strange that he feels offended by it if I do not see him as a patriotic South African.

"It is incomprehensible to me why Lesufi should want to sue me at all. Lesufi blocked me on Twitter a year or two ago, so he literally doesn't even see what I'm tweeting," he said.

"Why would it bother him as a powerful ANC potentate and someone who lords it over school principals. I see this as an attempt to limit my freedom of speech and therefore I will oppose any court application in this regard. If a court case materialises, I will insist that my side of the case be heard in Afrikaans which is likely to run counter to the current ANC language policy which has made English the only language tolerated in the courts."

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