Gordhan tried to suppress our free speech, says EFF after court victory

EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
EFF leader Julius Malema. File photo.
Image: Alon Skuy

The EFF on Thursday welcomed an Equality Court judgment dismissing public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan’s hate speech complaint against party leader Julius Malema, who referred to him as a “dog of white capital”.

At the same time, Gordhan’s lawyers said the judgment was premised on a technical interpretation of the Equality Act.

In a statement on Thursday, the EFF said Gordhan sought to suppress their right to free speech and political campaigning.

Judge Roland Sutherland ruled that the minister must pay the EFF’s costs in the case, which marks the second hate speech victory for the party in less than a week.

“Despite the fact that the utterances were indeed hateful and aimed at engendering hatred against [Gordhan], [Gordhan] has failed to bring his understandable grievances within the compass of the Equality Act,” the judge ruled.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyeseni Ndlozi said: “We welcome the court’s dismissal as a victory of political rights to free speech, which is the only tool opposition parties have to question the powerful. Without the right to publicly criticise those in power, like Gordhan, we are unable to exercise accountability over the executive and its decisions. Many powerful politicians have run to court seeking to silence the opposition through defamation suits.”

He said the judgment was a powerful signal to “all of them that they must not use our courts to curtail accountability and scrutiny over their actions”.

Ndlozi added: “Long has Pravin Gordhan felt himself above the law. He has conducted himself as untouchable when he presided over cruel projects of espionage in the Rogue Unit.”

Gordhan, however, hit back. His lawyers said in a statement that the judge made it emphatically clear that Malema’s statements “were clearly intended to be hurtful and promoted hatred”.

“These statements were described by the court as 'obnoxious', and that they contained an 'example of an extravagant juvenile rant stretching hyperbole to the extreme in the course of a demonstrably demagogic speech',” his lawyers, Malatji & Co, said.

They said they would continue advising Gordhan to explore legal avenues to take action against the EFF for what they called a “persistent and infantile political campaign of the EFF that spreads lies about our client”.

“Whether attacking our client, targeting judges, or intimidating journalists, the EFF’s dangerous abuse of prejudice subverts our constitutional democracy and promotes the politics of hatred, intolerance and division,” Malatji said.