North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo has turned to the courts of law in an urgent bid to stop leaders of a local businessmen forum from continuing with what he termed a “smear campaign” against him.
Mahumapelo is asking the court to prohibit and interdict leaders of the North West Business Forum from making any “defamatory statements” like those insinuating that he is corrupt as well as threatening him with violence or inciting such against him.
The forum’s executives, Fana Moraka, Sello Mogodiri, Themba Gwabeni and Oupa Mphomane, were listed as respondents in the application, which Mahumapelo was hoping would be regarded as urgent.
In the application Mahumapelo, who is also ANC chairperson in the province, expressed concerns that he had in some statements been likened to people like Lucas Mangope, Oupa Gqozo, Fulgencio Batista and Mobutu Seseseko.
“The reference to some of the world’s most brutal dictators and the violence that characterised their removal [I refer to Idi Amin and Fulgencio Batista, who was a dictator of Cuba] is clearly meant to be understood by myself that a similar fate will befall myself. [The forum leaders] have made it clear that they now intend to intensify their campaign against me,” he wrote in his accompanying affidavit.
Mahumapelo referred to media reports in which the forum’s leaders were quoted as well as an open letter and a song both disseminated through social media in which it is suggested that he was “corrupt” which, he added, were also “defamatory”.
“It says of and concerning myself that I am corrupt, that I am dishonest, greedy and abuse power with no regard to the consequences,” Mahumapelo wrote in his affidavit.
“It also says that I am evil and full of lawlessness and have profited from the proceeds of crime [as is clear from the reference to ‘ill-gotten gains’],” he wrote in his supporting affidavit.
“I respectfully submit that an open letter also carries the innuendo that I am implicated in the murder of Mr [Wandile] Bozwana [a businessman and member of the forum shot and killed in Pretoria late in 2015] despite the respondents trying to hide this innuendo by stating: ‘We seek not to insinuate that the premier is responsible for his death or that he could have ordered the hit’”.
Mahumapelo explained in his affidavit that he had just over a year ago smoked a peace pipe with the forum leadership, who “agreed to terminate their unlawful action and issued a press statement wherein they purported to clear me of any wrongdoing”.
He said things changed “towards the end of 2016 [with forum leaders] and for reasons I can only speculate on again decided to take up the rhetoric that characterised the 2015 smear campaign”.
Late in January, Mahumapelo wrote a letter through his lawyers to the forum’s leaders, asking them to apologise for their statements purporting he was “corrupt” and desist from making any further defamatory statements against him.
In response, the forum’s spokesperson Mogodiri said they would not do so and welcomed a day in court with the premier, saying they would use the opportunity to substantiate their allegations.
Mogodiri said now that the time had come, they were going to “oppose” Mahumapelo’s application against them and they were seemingly not ready to stop using the word “corruption” in one sentence with the premier’s name.
He said the forum’s view was that “Mahumapelo’s legal action was a desperate attempt to silence [us] so he can perpetuate corruption unabated. He is a public representative who voluntarily availed himself for election to public office ... he cannot avoid public scrutiny, especially when his financial conduct is suspect.”
“He must bring it on so that we can lay bare his alleged corrupt activities. We are ready for him and we remain steadfast and undeterred ... we’ll see him in court.”
He called on the premier to volunteer and avail himself for lifestyle auditing “if he is really innocent”.
“We expect him to join us in the fight against crime irrespective of who is involved and as a result he is equally excepted to lead by example,” Mogodiri said.