Key factors in the failed EFF bid to appeal Manuel defamation ruling

The South Gauteng High Court on Tuesday described the EFF's bid for leave to appeal a defamation ruling in a case brought against it by former finance minister Trevor Manuel as "not thought through". 

In late May Manuel won a lawsuit against the EFF and was awarded R500 000 in damages. Manuel had taken the EFF to court after the party published a statement criticising his involvement in the selection panel that led to the appointment of new SA Revenue Service Commissioner Edward Kieswetter. The EFF had alleged that Manuel's participation was "corrupt" and "nepotistic". The party had also claimed he was a business associate of and related to new Kieswetter, which Manuel denied at the time. 

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.

The EFF's statement was found to be unlawful and false by Judge Elias Matojane in his ruling in late May. He ordered the EFF to apologise to Manuel and remove the statement from all its platforms. The EFF then sought leave to appeal the judgment which was denied by Matojane on Tuesday. He said the EFF's grounds for appeal lacked the prospect of success.

The EFF now intends to petition the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal, according to Cape Talk.

Below are 4 key factors which Matojane cited as he dismissed the application.

Damages

In a defamation case, the damages which are available to an aggrieved party do not require proof of actual loss or injury, said Matojane. Each case must be addressed on its facts. The publication of a defamatory matter results in presumed damages, even if the applicant cannot prove actual damages.

Matojane ruled that the awarding of R500 000 in general damages was "reasonable under the circumstances" after the EFF last week decried what is said were "disproportionately high" damages. 

Seriousness of the defamatory statement

Matojane said that false allegations of corruption and nepotism are among the most serious and egregious that one person can make against another. Corrupt people are loathed in civilised societies, he said. 

The reach of the statement

Motajane said the EFF knew that communication via Twitter is instantaneous, interactive and far-reaching. This was a significant factor to consider in defamation cases, because someone searching the internet anywhere in the world could read claims alleging Manuel to be a "dishonest and corrupt person".

Motivation of the EFF

Motajane said that the EFF refused to tender an apology or a retraction for no reason other than to spite Manuel. The former minister had in late March demanded that the EFF retract what he at the time called a "racist" and "libellous" statement. 

Matojane ruled that party refused to make any concession when it was obvious that it should do so. Instead of retracting the defamatory statement and apologising, EFF leader Julius Malema again took to Twitter to defend and reiterate the defamatory statement, he said. 

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