The High Court in South Gauteng ordered the Economic Freedom Forces (EFF) fighters to withdraw and remove a fake and "unlawful" statement against former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel from all his media platforms within 24 hours.
The verdict was delivered on Thursday after a mid-May hearing.
The foreigners were also ordered to pay 500,000 dinars of expenditure – which Manuel earlier said would donate for charity, and apologize. EFF has since stated that it will appeal the verdict.
Saga refers to the recent appointment of Edward Kiesvetter, the new head of SA Revenue Services. Manuel was the head of the selection committee, appointed by Finance Minister Tito Mboveni, with the task of interviewing potential candidates for the highest job in the revenue service. The Commission made recommendations, but did not make a final decision.
The EFF, in a March statement, claimed that Kiesvetter was a relative of Manuela and that the two had close business relationships without providing evidence. They also said that the process of naming Kiesvetter was mysterious and Manuel was biased. The statement was posted on its platforms.
According to court papers, at a time when defamation was shared, EFF had more than 725,000 Twitter followers. Tveet retreated 237 times with an EFF Twitter account. EFF leader Julius Malema also announced a statement from his personal account, which has more than 2 million followers, where he is also retweeted and divided.
Here are 5 key reasons why the court ruled against the EFF
1. EFF knew that the statement was incorrect
According to the judgment, EFF knew that the statement was incorrect because party members were present on February 7, when President Ciril Ramaphosa in his country told him to implement the recommendations of Nugent's commission to appoint a new SARS commissioner. The commission was tasked with investigating the administration and management of the tax agency, which led to the possible dismissal of its former chief Tom Moiane.
They were also present on February 13th, when retired Judge Robert Nugent presented his report to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance, which further detailed his findings. In his report, Nugent recommended that potential candidates be invited to a private interview.
"As noted above, EFF sent a parliamentary question to the Minister of Finance wondering why Lawyer Nugent recommended" a secret conversation process ", the statement said, stressing the fact that the fact that conversations will be conducted privately .
"The respondents also knew that Mr. Manuel had not played any role in determining that the process would be conducted in accordance with the recommendations of the Nugent Commission. Therefore, there is no basis to say that this process is mysterious, have a remedy that they can resort to.
"The allegation that Mr Manual illegally appointed Mr Kiesvetter as Deputy Commander of the SARS when he was the Minister of Finance is also obviously false. The President appointed Mr Kiesvetter in the meaning of the SARS Act."
2. Reputation and defamation
The court found that "a reasonable person of ordinary intelligence understood the tweet that means Mr. Manuel was corrupt, impotent, and secretly carried out the appointment of a new SARS chief in a deliberate attempt to disguise his family relationship with Mr. Kiesvetter, and that linked to the "white capitalist establishment" that works contrary to the best interests of SARS … "
"It is important to point out in this case that the tweet was not a publication in newspapers or shows, it was a publication on Twitter. A hypothetical plain reader must be considered a reasonable representative of Twitter users who follow the EFF and Mr. Malem and share his interest in politics and current affairs, "The ruling states.
"… There is no doubt that this statement will in general tend to reduce Manuel's reputation in assessing members of society with real thinking, as the tweets say it was unfair, unscrupulous and without integrity."
3. Truth and public interest
EFF failed to prove that the statement was true.
"It is not true that the appointment process was" mysterious "because the details of the appointment process became available to the public from the outset. The process was open and transparent, even if the interviews themselves were not public. [EFF] admit that they lacked the relevant facts because they were not given significant information, "the ruling states. The Court found that, as part of its defense, EFF cited only "peripheral facts" such as lack of transparency and concern about transparency, among other things.
"These are all peripheral facts that are not related to the sting of a defamatory statement in relation to Mr. Manuela."
The court also said that the fact that Manuel withdrew from talking with Kiesvetter and that he had worked with him earlier was not "the basis for a reasonable fear of bias." Manuel said in his court records that, although the commission did not ask him to withdraw from the Kiesvetter interview, he did so from the "plenty of caution", as the two of them knew.
4. Reasonable publication
EFF argued that the publication of his statement was reasonable because it acted "similar to a whistleblower" because they relied on information provided to him by a trusted source. They accepted the statement as true and "they had no reason to suspect".
The court, however, found that this defense failed for several reasons and the party did not show that it was "reasonable in certain circumstances to publish certain facts, in a special way and at a specific time."
According to the judgment, EFF grounded its claim that Manuel was linked to Kiesvetter on the basis of "an unscheduled SMS" claim. The judge concluded that they had not taken reasonable steps to check whether it was true or not, before they published their statement.
5. Fair comment
"Behavior." [EFF] both before and after the publication of the disputed statement shows that they were activated by malice. They have published a tweet with an unreasonable indifference on whether this is true or false. "