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Challenge me, don't defame - Manuel to EFF in Kieswetter nepotism matter

Trevor Manuel is demanding a retraction and R500,000 from the red berets.

Edward Kieswetter. Picture: Business Pulse International screengrab.

JOHANNESBURG - Lawyers for former finance minister Trevor Manuel on Tuesday said the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) could have challenged the appointment of Edward Kieswetter as the South African Revenue Service (Sars) commissioner without defaming him.

Manuel took the party to court for defamation over its statements that the former minister and African National Congress heavyweight was guilty of nepotism in the appointment of Kieswetter.

Manuel is demanding a retraction and R500,000 from the red berets.

Carol Steinberg, representing Manuel, told the court that the first five paragraphs in the EFF’s statement were false, especially that the appointment of Kieswetter was nepotistic.

Steinberg insisted Manuel and Kieswetter had no relation apart from when they had to work together when Manuel was finance minister and Kieswetter was deputy commissioner.

The EFF also alleged that Manuel was behind the appointment of Kieswetter as deputy commissioner of Sars in 2009.

Steinberg said Kieswetter’s appointment was ordered by the Sars commissioner at the time and not Manuel.

CASE ON URGENT BASIS

Lawyers for the EFF denied the party’s comments on the appointment of Kieswetter had done any damage to Manuel's reputation.

The Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg heard this case on an urgent basis because Manuel claimed the EFF’s statement continued to cause reputational damage.

But the party’s lawyers dismissed this submission, arguing that Manuel continued to sit on numerous boards without any awkward glances.

They argued the only reason Manuel wanted this matter to be heard urgently was because Kieswetter started work on 1 May and he didn’t want a cloud hanging over the new taxman’s head.

The EFF also contended there was no public crisis for this matter to be heard on an urgent basis as Manuel had already responded to the EFF’s allegations in a statement.

The High Court reserved judgment on the matter.

(Edited by Thapelo Lekabe)

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