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Winnie Mandela Stratcom claims land EFF in trouble

Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki says EFF has tarnished her reputation.
Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki says EFF has tarnished her reputation.

The late Winnie Madikizela-Mandela's revelations about Moeletsi Mbeki's wife Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, and media expert Anton Harber, have landed the EFF in trouble.

The party is facing a legal battle by the two veteran journalists over statements issued to the media and on its website based on Madikizela-Mandela's interview, during which she alleged that Gqubule-Mbeki and Harber were used by Stratcom to write negative stories about her.

Sunday World can reveal that the EFF and its spokesperson Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi have been served with a notice of motion through papers filed at the South Gauteng High Court, asking them to retract their statements and apologise to the journalists.

Furthermore, a demand of R500000 each for damages has also been made against the party in the papers by both Gqubule-Mbeki and Harber.

But, according to a response to the letter of demand, the EFF is not budging and is resisting the pressure to apologise and retract the statements, saying it merely forwarded the allegations that were uttered by Madikizela-Mandela in her video interview with a media house.

It instead urged Gqubule-Mbeki and Harber to go after the media house that published the video and leave it alone.

In her court papers, Gqubule-Mbeki, who is an economics editor at the SABC, said the EFF's statement and Ndlozi's Twitter post were defamatory towards her as they suggested that she worked for Stratcom, the notorious propaganda and disinformation unit of the security police of the apartheid government. "The accusation is particularly egregious because I was active in the Struggle against apartheid at the time. The statement accordingly implies that I was a traitor who betrayed my friends and comrades and our Struggle," reads Gqubule-Mbeki's affidavit.

She said the statements were false in every possible way as she never worked for, or collaborated with, Stratcom or any other part of the apartheid security police.

Gqubule-Mbeki said in the papers that the EFF had not produced evidence to support its statement and refused to remove the statement.

Gqubule-Mbeki said the EFF's suggestions were absurd and was asking the court to stop their unlawful publication.

"The applicant also seeks a retraction, apology and damages from respondents," read the papers.

Mbuyiseni Ndlozi /Brian Witbooi
Mbuyiseni Ndlozi /Brian Witbooi

The papers show that she was also disturbed by the party's response to her letter of demand. The response also defended Madikizela-Mandela's comments, claiming that "Mrs Mandela was entitled to be aggrieved" by her negative reportage.

She said the EFF's statement implied she was on Stratcom's payroll, working to destroy Madikizela-Mandela.

She said the statements also made the following allegations against her by innuendo: that she played a deceitful role in the Struggle by pretending to be an anti-apartheid activist while she was a government agent, and that she was a traitor who betrayed her friends. She said the EFF's statement suggested that she was an impipi.

In his papers, as a second applicant to the case, Harber added his case was supported by Gqubule-Mbeki's affidavit on the allegations made against them by Madikizela-Mandela and spread by the EFF and its spokesperson Ndlozi.

The veteran journalists are represented by Webber Wentzel's media lawyer Dario Milo.

Milo referred all enquiries to the parties, saying that they were better placed to respond on the application.

Harber said the EFF's message was shared 449 times on Facebook, indicating it had reached a wider audience. This necessitated legal action as that meant the damage to his dignity and reputation was ongoing as the statements remain in the public domain.

Ndlozi said he was aware of the court application but said the party was unfazed by the legal challenge. "We have maintained our statement because we do not believe it to be in the wrong. Mama Mandela in the video says explicitly that the two were used by Stratcom. This is what our statement says."

Gqubule-Mbeki did not respond to requests for comment.

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