EFF and AfriForum prepare for court battle
AfriForum says no after red berets demand an apology for ‘fraudulent’ documents fiasco
The dust has not settled in the AfriForum and EFF “fraudulent” legal fees documents fiasco though Standard Bank has issued an apology to the organisation and the party over its communication blunder.
The red berets want AfriForum to apologise by the close of business on Wednesday or risk having to pay “huge” as the party prepares for litigation.
Last week AfriForum published a statement titled “Falsified documents: AfriForum exposes dodgy EFF payments”, which caused a stir on social media. The statement was referring to proof of payment documents for R153,138.50 and R163,441.39 the EFF paid in legal fees to the organisation.
At the weekend, Standard Bank said the documentation circulating in the media, while on an outdated template, reflects genuine transactions which are not fraudulent. The bank had, however, initially sent an erroneous response to AfriForum stating the proof of payment document was fraudulent.
“We take this matter very seriously and apologise. All the transactions queried by AfriForum with Standard Bank are genuine,” the bank said.
The EFF is demanding a public apology from AfriForum.
Its attorney, Ian Levitt, told TimesLIVE the removal of the statement by AfriForum is not enough and the party will proceed with litigation for a defamation case against the organisation.
“While they [AfriForum] say they have ‘without prejudice’ removed all the posts and want to engage, they refuse to apologise, blaming Standard Bank.
“We therefore will proceed against them as promised. One cannot publish false and damaging information without consequences, which in this case will be huge,” he said.
AfriForum spokesperson Ernst van Zyl said the organisation has no intention of apologising to the EFF.
“There is nothing to apologise for from AfriForum’s side. Standard Bank has issued a formal apology to both AfriForum and the EFF for their errors,” Van Zyl said.
“There are no grounds for a defamation case, seeing as AfriForum’s communications were based on information provided by Standard Bank, which has been clarified by the bank. Previous communications were removed by AfriForum because they were replaced by the latest facts provided by Standard Bank.”
Through lawyers Hurter Spies Incorporated, AfriForum responded to the EFF’s demand for an apology, saying: “We wish to make it clear that at no stage whatsoever did our client or our firm take it upon themselves to refer to the documents [proof of payment] sent to us as fraudulent. The disputed statements of November 9 2023 relied on a very specific electronic communication sent to us by Standard Bank, after we were instructed by our client to inquire from Standard Bank about the authenticity of the documents forwarded by your firm to us as ‘proofs of payment’.”
The organisation argued that deleting the statement was not an admission of wrongdoing.
“Our clients have removed all public statements referring to the documents from their social media platforms, websites and other platforms aimed at publishing media statements. This action should, however, not be construed as an admission of wrongdoing. Obviously our client denies its conduct towards your client was defamatory in any way.
“Should you decide to persist with your threat to institute legal proceedings against us, we shall oppose any such action.”
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