The Economic Freedom Fighters have filed an appeal against a High Court ruling which ordered it to apologise and pay damages to Trevor Manuel, in a case involving claims made by the party against the former finance minister on social media.
On Thursday, the High Court in Johannesburg ruled that the remarks relating to Manuel’s involvement in the selection of the SARS commissioner were defamatory and false, and instructed the party, together with its leader, Julius Malema, and spokesperson, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi to pay him R500 000 in damages.
The party’s case, set out in papers filed at the High Court on Friday, are broadly centred on Constitutional rights, such as freedom of expression and professional ethics in the public administration.
According to the party, the judge’s finding that its statements against Manuel was defamatory curtails the right to free speech.
“To outlaw such speech by means of defamation impermissibly erodes the protections afforded to persons I terms of section 16 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa,” the party says.
Manuel had approached the court after the party refused to apologise for accusing him of nepotism in the process that led to the appointment of Edward Kieswetter as the new commissioner of the SA Revenue Service.
The EFF argues that the High Court ruling sets “a dangerous precedent” in terms of the provisions of the Constitution, which governs the basic values and principles of public administration.
Manuel chaired the selection panel that interviewed candidates for the post of the tax agency’s new commissioner, and the EFF claimed that the Manuel’s involvement in the process was nepotistic, as he had a personal relationship with Kieswetter and the two were business associates.
The panel made recommendations, but was not involved in Kieswetter’s final selection.
The EEF posted its feelings about the selection process on its Twitter account on March 27.
In its ruling, the court instructed the EFF to, within 24 hours, remove the statements from all their media platforms and apologise to Manuel. The EFF says its believes that another court would come to a different conclusion in the matter and set the ruling aside.
It also seeks costs against the appeal.