The Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) has dismissed with costs an application by the EFF for leave to appeal against the judgment which ordered the party to pay former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel R500 000 for defaming him, says a TimesLIVE report.

Last month Judge Elias Matojane also ordered the EFF to remove a statement about Manuel from all of its media platforms about the interview process for new SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter. Manuel went to court in response to a statement by the EFF, shared on the party's official Twitter account, which accused him of nepotism and corruption in influencing the appointment of Kieswetter.

Following the judgment the EFF, its leader Julius Malema and its spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi applied for leave to appeal against Matojane’s judgment. Manuel opposed the application.

In its application for leave to appeal, the EFF had argued that Manuel adduced no evidence to demonstrate that he had suffered and continued to suffer harm to his reputation. But Matojane said in his judgment: The publication of a defamatory matter results in presumed damages even if the applicant cannot prove actual damages. The court assumes that the aggrieved person has suffered harm to his reputation. It is (the EFF, Malema and Ndlozi) who are required to demonstrate that Manuel was not harmed,’ he said.

Matojane also said the EFF parties in the case (the EFF, Malema and Ndlozi) had conceded that the information contained in the statement was false.

There can never be a public interest in the continued publication of a statement once it is known that it contains deliberate falsehoods. Such publication is inherently malicious. Malice is established where someone publishes a defamatory expression knowing that it is false and recklessly indifferent as to whether it is true or false,’ Matojane said.

According to TimesLIVE, Matojane noted the EFF parties also complained that the fine of R500 000 was too high. He also dismissed this complaint and said the SCA had explained in a judgment that each case must be addressed in its facts.

Matojane also cited another judgment of the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) from 1924, which stated the amount of damages was entirely at the discretion of the court. Matojane said false allegations of corruption and nepotism were among the most serious allegations that one person can make against another.

The statement was published with complete disregard for the truth and with the sole intention to injure Manuel as shown by the stubborn refusal to remove the statement on their social media platforms despite its known falsity.

Full TimesLIVE report

The judge also described as ‘astonishing’ another EFF argument – that a reasonable reader would be used to the statement as consistent with the EFF’s ‘colourful rhetoric style’, notes a Mail & Guardian report. ‘The publication of defamatory and false statements, even in a colourful rhetorical style, is unlawful,’ the judge said.

The EFF could not rely on the defence that their publishing the statement was reasonable, he added. They did not attempt to verify the truth of the statement from their ‘confidential source’, nor had they offered Manuel an opportunity to respond.

‘There can never be a public interest in the continued publication of a statement once it is known that it contains deliberate falsehoods,’ he said.

Full Mail & Guardian report

EFF and Others v Manuel; In Re: Manuel v Economic Freedom Fighters and Others