The EFF has argued before the High Court that the R500 000 damages claim awarded to Trevor Manuel in a defamation case against the party was “disproportionately high” and that there was no evidence to demonstrate how it was determined.
The party on Friday presented arguments for its application for leave to appeal a ruling against an earlier judgement by Judge Elias Matojane, who ordered the party to apologise and pay damages to Manuel for publishing “false, unlawful and defamatory” statements about the former finance minister.
The EFF attorney, Kameel Premhid, argued that the amount was “disproportionately high” in the context of numerous recent cases that have dealt with damages in the context of defamation.
“There was no evidence led as to how the quantum of damages was ascertained,” he stated.
He further submitted that lack of evidence to support the claim awarded to Manuel was “purely punitive”.
Manuel had brought the suit after the EFF put out a statement which claimed that he had favoured Edward Kieswetter for the top job at the SA Revenue Service (SARS) because the two knew each other prior to the interview process.
The contents of the statement accused Manuel of being corrupt and nepotistic.The case listed the EFF, its leader Julius Malema and spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi as respondents. Manuel is the Chairperson of Old Mutual and sits on the boards of other companies.
The EFF in its submission dismissed Manuel’s complaint as being “without substance” saying there was not evidence that he suffered harm as a result of the statement.
Manuel was the head of a selection panel, appointed by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, tasked with interviewing candidates for the top job in the revenue service. The panel made recommendations but did not make the final decision.
Open and shut case
Manuel’s legal team on the other hand is of the view that there is no prospect that another court would come to a different conclusion on the matter.
Advocate Carol Steinberg stated it was an “open and shut case” – lambasting the EFF for not taking steps to verify the information it published about Manuel.
Steinberg noted the wide reach of the statement which was publish on Twitter on 27 March, saying it reached approximately 3 million people.
She said the defamatory allegations that Manuel “engaged in a corrupt and nepotistic” process, were of a “most grave and damaging kind”. She also rejected the EFF position that the R500 000 award was too high, arguing that each case was dealt with on it own merit.
“A mathematical or empirical calculation is impossible, and each case must be addressed on its own facts,” said Steinberg.
Manuel has indicated that he plans to give away the award, and would not not use it for personal gain, as Fin 24 reported.
Judge Matojane will deliver his ruling on the application on Tuesday.