Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan’s defamation and crimen injuria charges against the EFF are an attempt to silence the party, EFF president Julius Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu, said.
“This application is nothing other than a thinly veiled attempt by Mr Gordhan to silence me and the deputy president of the EFF, Mr Floyd Shivambu. By extension, Mr Gordhan seeks to silence the EFF,” Malema said in an affidavit.
In November 2018, Malema spoke outside the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture, where he referred to Gordhan as a “dog of white monopoly capital (WMC)” and requested EFF members and supporters to be “ready for war”.
He also took aim at Gordhan’s daughter Anisha, claiming the National Treasury and other government departments awarded contracts to her as a result of her father’s position in the government.
In addition, Malema’s deputy accused the minister and his daughter of being corrupt.
But Gordhan did not take the comments lightly and approached the courts for relief.
In a statement released when he laid a complaint with the Equality Court, Gordhan claimed the comments by both EFF leaders constituted contraventions of Section 10 of the Equality Act, explaining that they were intended to be “hurtful, incite harm and to promote hatred”.
The minister is seeking an unconditional apology from the two and damages amounting to R150 000.
But the two have accused the minister of attempting to limit their freedom of speech and freedom of association, and of creating an environment of intimidation in which he is not allowed to be questioned or criticised in public.
They also accused the minister of using the courts to settle political battles.
Malema further argued that Gordhan’s civil complaint could lead to the EFF being severely prejudiced in its ability to criticise the minister and that if he and his deputy were found liable, so too would their political party.
He insisted that Gordhan failed to understand the political nature of his speech and even cited 2015 a Constitutional Court ruling in favour of the DA.
That court found that the DA was within its rights when it said in an SMS that former president Jacob Zuma had stolen money for security upgrades at his private home in Nkandla.
Malema said even a “weak factual link” used to sustain an accusation could qualify as “non-defamatory” speech.
The two claimed that they based some of their comments on numerous reports which have never been taken on review. Among them are:
the Sikhakhane report, which was also published in 2014.
In Shivambu’s affidavit, he said: “He is a political bully unable to accept political punches.”
He also raised concerns about a perceived failure to critically assess Gordhan.
“The media has completely failed to seriously engage Mr Gordhan regarding his complicity in the Zuma state capture project,” he argued.
Shivambu said the media was already predisposed to rejecting anything the EFF had to say, in favour of the minister.
The matter was before the Johannesburg Magistrate’s Court on Monday, where it was postponed after the parties agreed to take the matter to a higher court.
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