Trevor Manuel sues EFF for defamation in Kieswetter case
Former finance minister wants the party to remove offending statements about him from its website and for the court to declare the comments defamatory and false
Trevor Manuel is suing the EFF, its leader Julius Malema and its spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi after they alleged that he oversaw a “nepotistic” and “corrupt” process to appoint new SA Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner Edward Kieswetter.
In an application to the High Court in Johannesburg dated April 10, Manuel asked the court to declare the EFF’s comments about him defamatory and false. He also wanted the party to be compelled to remove the offending statement from its online platforms. Manuel also wants the EFF to be interdicted from repeating similar allegations.
Kieswetter is expected to take over as Sars commissioner on May 1.
The former finance minister also claimed damages for injury to his reputation, saying the court should determine the quantum of the damages which, if awarded, he will donate to charity.
Manuel said in court papers that the comments made by the party had injured his name, reputation and standing in society.
“I would like to make myself available to serve my country in some or other capacity in future. But the statement makes it less likely that I could ever do so, for it says that I acted in a corrupt and nepotistic manner,” Manuel says in his founding affidavit.
Manuel, who is current chair of Old Mutual Limited, chaired the selection panel which conducted the interviews for the post and had recused himself from asking questions during Kieswetter’s interview.
Kieswetter is a former deputy commissioner at Sars who held the position while Manuel was finance minister. Manuel said he recused himself from asking questions because they were still on friendly terms by the time of the interview.
Hours before Kieswetter’s appointment was announced, the EFF released a statement in which it rejected his appointment. It lashed out at Manuel, saying he was related to Kieswetter and was a close business associate. The party also accused him of running a “secret” process which led to Kieswetter’s “unlawful” appointment.
Manuel denied this and described the accusations as “highly defamatory”.
Manuel demanded that the EFF retract the defamatory remarks in the statement, but they did not, according to the court papers.
In his affidavit, Manuel asks the court to hear the matter on a semi-urgent basis.
“I believe it is in the best interest of Sars, and therefore in the public interest, that there should be no cloud hanging over his [Kieswetter’s] appointment process, and no doubts as to whether he was appointed as the result of a nepotistic process,” Manuel said.