Mmusi Maimane. Picture: SUPPLIED
Mmusi Maimane. Picture: SUPPLIED

Lawyers acting for the Independent Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) have told the DA to explain in writing by Wednesday why  its controversial billboard is not defamatory. 

The Electoral Code prohibits the publishing of false information about other parties and candidates. 

The IEC has also told the DA to justify comments made by leader Mmusi Maimane at the unveiling of the billboard in which he stated that the ANC  is responsible for the death of 144 Esidimeni patients, who died through neglect and lack of care, and for killing 34 miners in Marikana in 2012. 

The lawyers’ letter is in response to a complaint laid with the IEC by the ANC, in which it claims that the comments and billboard “contain defamatory statements concerning the ANC as it suggests the ANC was directly responsible for the killing”.

The IEC said: “The commission views these allegations in a very serious light. Before taking any steps in the matter and in the interests of fairness the commission requests the DA to respond in writing to the allegations made.”

The DA said on Sunday that it stands by its #TheANCIsKillingSA  billboard saying it serves to commemorate the lives lost through the ANC government action. 

DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi said that the letter indicates that the IEC  is acting on behalf of the ANC. The letter makes no reference to the Electoral Code and refers only to the ANC complaint.

“The IEC’s assertion that they are acting on behalf of the ANC on this matter is both confusing and concerning. Should the ANC wish to pursue legal action against the DA for this billboard, they should have done so independently and not make use of the IEC legal representatives and resources,” he said.

The IEC was yet to respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

Malatsi said the DA has requested clarity from the IEC on the matter before further action will be taken.

“More importantly, the ANC has laid a complaint with the IEC because they presumably dispute the hard truths which are contained on the billboard erected by the DA last week,” said Malatsi.

“This billboard seeks to hold the ANC government to account for the murder of these innocent citizens who lost their lives at the hands of an uncaring ANC government. The DA has neither defamed the organisation nor made false claims about their culpability. We have therefore written to the IEC to seek clarity on what capacity their lawyers are acting on this matter. Once we receive that information, we are prepared to argue our case in the electoral court,” said Malatsi.

He said the DA’s assertion is that to claim the ANC “is killing us is both factual and undisputed”.

“The ANC is killing South Africans. We cannot let them get away with murder or have them force us to forget the human loss of life they have presided over. Under a DA government, such atrocities would never happen. That is why we will continue to fight for accountability.”

phakathib@businesslive.co.za