The EFF will know today whether the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) will grant its leave to appeal an earlier defamation ruling in its case against former Finance Minister Trevor Manuel. The court ruled on 30 May that the statement made by the EFF against Manuel was false and defamatory and ordered the party to pay Manuel R500 000 in damages, Fin24 reports.

The party was also ordered to apologise and to remove the 'unlawful' statement from all its platforms within 24 hours. The EFF, however, indicated hours after the ruling that it would apply for leave to appeal.

Manuel had brought the suit after the EFF statement claimed he had favoured Edward Kieswetter for the top job at SARS because the two knew each other prior to the interview process, among other things. Manuel was head of a selection panel, appointed by Finance Minister Tito Mboweni, tasked with interviewing potential candidates for the job and making recommendations.

In his court papers, Manuel acknowledged that he and Kieswetter knew one another prior to the interview process as Kieswetter had served as deputy SARS commissioner when Manuel was Finance Minister. Manuel said in his papers that he had indicated this to the rest of the panel, and while he had not been asked to do so, he had decided to recuse himself from Kieswetter's interview out of an 'abundance of caution'.

The EFF, however, maintains that Manuel should have recused himself from the interview process of all the short-listed candidates. In its address to the court on Friday for leave to appeal, the EFF also said it believed that there was a reasonable prospect that another court would come to a different conclusion.

Full Fin24 report

The party also described the damages it was ordered to pay Manuel as 'disproportionately high'. According to a report on the Fin24 site, the party’s attorney, Kameel Premhid, argued it was ‘disproportionately high’ in the context of numerous recent cases that have dealt with defamation damages.

There was no evidence led as to how the quantum of damages was ascertained,’ he stated, noting that lack of evidence to support the claim awarded to Manuel was ‘purely punitive’.

The EFF in its submission dismissed Manuel's complaint as being ‘without substance’ saying there was no evidence that he suffered harm as a result of the statement.

Full Fin24 report