The Johannesburg High Court is expected to hear the defamation case brought by Former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel against the Economic Freedom Fighters on Tuesday.
The case concerns allegations that EFF national spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi made against Manuel regarding the appointment of new tax boss Edward Kieswetter.
Manuel was the chairperson of the selection panel that interviewed candidates and made recommendations for the top post at the SA Revenue Service.
Kieswetter, a former head of Alexander Forbes, was announced as the successful candidate on May 27. But prior to the announcement, the EFF released a statement that included several allegations against Kieswetter and Manuel, including that Kieswetter was the preferred candidate because he was related to Manuel, and that the two were close business associates.
At the time, Manuel called on the party to retract the “libellous” statement, which he dismissed as “racist”. The EFF, in turn, called Manuel a “bully” and said it would not be silenced with a lawsuit.
After the EFF refused to retract the claims, Manuel lodged an urgent court application. The application was meant to be heard last week, but was postponed until Tuesday to give the judge an opportunity to read the EFF’s responding affidavit, which was filed shortly before proceedings were due to start.
Here are 7 quotes from Manuel’s case on why he’s hauling the red berets to court:
“My purpose in bringing this application is to vindicate my reputation, the reputation of the panel and the integrity of the National Treasury as an institution, given the rigorous process it adopted in relation to the appointment of the new SARS Commissioner, and the integrity of SARS, since its reputation would suffer if it were thought to be led by a person who was appointed because of nepotism.”
“Before the interviews were conducted, panel members were asked to disclose any relationships with candidates for interview. The [panel report] records that while other members of the panel did not believe there was any reason to do so, I recused myself from the interview of Mr Kieswetter out of an abundance of caution. I did not engage with him during the course of his interview; he was questioned on his presentation only by the remaining members of the panel.”
3. Kieswetter relationship
“Mr Kieswetter had previously been appointed head of the [tax agency’s] Large Business Centre, and subsequently deputy commissioner. He was appointed to both positions by the then-Commissioner of SARS. In my capacity as Finance Minister, I met with the senior management of SARS once a fortnight. My engagement with Mr Kieswetter was thus an arms-length professional relationship. As the published record shows, Mr Kieswetter and I have remained on friendly terms. That is the extent of our relationship.”
4. Kieswetter appointment
“Mr Kieswetter was unanimously recommended by the panel as by far the most preferred candidate …
“The process [of how candidates were selected and interviewed] was not ‘run’ by me – rather I oversaw the process, driven collectively by an independent panel of highly qualified, distinguished and independent individuals.”
5. Kieswetter as Manuel’s relative
“I am not related to Mr Kieswetter in any way. There is no acceptable basis on which the respondents could have reached such a conclusion. Indeed … I believe the EFF suggested that Mr Kieswetter and I were relatives only because we were both designated coloured by the apartheid regime. No further comment is necessary.”
6. Business dealings
“Mr Kieswetter has never been a ‘close business associate’ of mine.”
7. ‘Malicious’ statements
“Not only are the statements false, but it is inconceivable that the respondents could have genuinely believed them to be true. They were in possession of no information whatsoever that could have led them to believe that the process was corrupt, nepotistic or clandestine. The statement was accordingly malicious and was made with the sole intention to harm me.”
Manuel is calling on the court to order that the EFF, along with its Commander-in-Chief Julius Malema remove its initial statement from its media platforms and that they be interdicted from publishing it again. He also wants an unconditional public retraction and apology.
Additionally, Manuel wants the EFF to pay damages – an amount which will be decided later should his application succeed – which would be donated to charity, as well as the costs of his counsel.