EFF petitions Appeals Court in Manuel defamation case

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel
Former finance minister Trevor Manuel

The  Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) has filed papers petitioning the Supreme Court of Appeal to grant it leave to appeal a defamation judgment against it in a case involving former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

This follows a ruling last week by the South Gauteng High Court which rejected the party’s application for leave to appeal the decision, which stated that the party's statement against Manuel was defamatory, false and unlawful.

The party was ordered it remove the statement which was published on social media and apologise  to Manuel. The court further awarded Manuel a R500 000 claim in damages.

In the papers filed on Thursday, the EFF, as well as its leader Julius Malema and spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, want to appeal the judgment by Judge Elias Matojane.

The parties state that the court erred in at least four respects, with regards to the awarding of damages. They contend that “the penalty chills free speech”  and poses a threat to constitutional rights.

“Politicians, and those in the public eye who play a political role, are as a matter of course considered to have thicker skin than a truly private litigant," the party's papers read.

They also state that the judgment does not fit the injury and is “grossly disproportionate”.

No precedent

“The penalty has no precedent, in fact the existing precedent goes against large penalty awards like this," the party went on to say.

On March 27, the EFF published a tweet on its official Twitter account objecting to what it called a "patently nepotistic and corrupt process of selecting the South African Revenue Services' Commissioner".

Manuel was the head of a selection panel, appointed by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, tasked with interviewing candidates to head up the tax agency. The panel made recommendations for the top job, but did not make the final decision.

Edward Kieswetter was eventually appointed to the position. The EFF claimed that the interviews were conducted in secret, something which went against the spirit of transparancy and openness.

They further alleged that Kieswetter was a "dodgy character" and Manuel's "close business associate and companion".

Manuel has a month to respond the EFF application.

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