Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) spokesperson Carl Niehaus is suing Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula for calling him a thug and corrupt on Twitter last year. In his summons, Niehaus submitted that, as a result of Mbalula’s defamatory statements, his reputation had been injured and he had suffered damages in the amount of R8 million.
This is due to a series of tweets in October in which Mbalula labelled Niehaus and MKMVA president Kebby Maphatsoe as suspected criminals. In one of his tweets, Mbalula said: “Carl Niehaus is a well-known thug employed by ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule at Luthuli House.”
The tweets were sparked by a march by MKMVA members to Luthuli House and Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office, demanding that Mbalula be arrested for allowing the infrastructure of the Passenger Rail Agency of SA to rot.
That angered Mbalula, who tweeted that the leaders of the march – Niehaus and Maphatsoe – were thugs masquerading as former Umkhonto weSizwe soldiers. In the process, he dragged in Magashule – who he claimed had suspiciously employed Niehaus to work at the ANC.
Mbalula fired another shot at Magashule and Niehaus, saying the latter was obsessed with insulting President Cyril Ramaphosa.
According to the summons, seen by City Press on Wednesday, the sheriff of the court was supposed to deliver it to Mbalula on January 13 2021. However, the court was struggling to get hold of the minister. The copy of the summons confirms that once it has been served on Mbalula, the legal process could get under way, and a court date would be determined.
“The allegations contained in the statements in as far as they are directed to the plaintiff are false and misleading. The defendant is aware that the statement that the plaintiff is a thug is untrue,” the summons reads.
Niehaus said he was suing Mbalula because he could not get away with insulting people. “Minister Mbalula seems to think that he’s got impunity to insult people. He has also insulted Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and many others, including the secretary-general of the ANC, comrade Ace Magashule.
“This summons proved to be particularly difficult to be served on Minister Mbalula, because for a long time he and his staff avoided being available to receive it, but it has now finally been delivered.
“I think the time has come for Minister Mbalula to be told this is enough. He will not be left with a situation where he feels he has impunity to insult people as he wishes, and there will be consequences. That is why I decided to proceed with this summons,” he said.
This is not the first time Mbalula’s tweets have landed him in trouble – early this year he tweeted that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane was a hired gun of the ANC. He attacked Mkhwebane after Magashule instructed ANC MPs to vote against a parliamentary move to start processes that could result in the removal of Mkhwebane from office.
“Ace Magashule is wrong to suggest that Mkhwebane can’t be removed. Yes, as a friend to Mkhwebane he can express that view, but not on behalf of the ANC,” Mbalula tweeted. “Which structure of the ANC arrived at such a position? Mkhwebane is being charged with misconduct. Let us talk about that. Mkhwebane is a hired gun, not a public protector.
“Which NEC meeting resolved to defend Mkhwebane? Second, the ANC strategy and tactics talk about unity and struggle of the opposite. It does not characterise the opposition political parties as the enemy. You were dining with the EFF leader the other day – is he your enemy?” he said in another tweet.
Mkhwebane also opened a case of crimen injuria and contempt against Mbalula.
Mbalula’s spokesperson was not available for comment.