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Manuel defamation ruling stifles right to free political speech - EFF

The party said the Constitution is clear in separating the standard to be applied and free political speech should not be confused with private interactions.

FILE: Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema during a media briefing at the party’s headquarters in Braamfontein, Johannesburg on 16 May 2019. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) said they were concerned that the defamation ruling on Thursday against them in a matter involving former minister Trevor Manuel would stifle the party's right to free political speech.

The party said the Constitution was clear in separating the standard to be applied and that free political speech should not be confused with private interactions.

The EFF said it was on this basis that it would be appealing the ruling that found the red berets' comments on Manuel were defamatory and false.

The party said the Gauteng High Court had seriously erred in its judgment.

EFF spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the party wanted Manuel to be disqualified from participating in the process of the appointment of Edward Kieswetter as South African Revenue Service commissioner because he was conflicted.

“We were willing to bring our people who had told us about this relationship, but leave that aside, Manuel in his [court] papers admitted that he recused himself during the interview. Why? Because he was conflicted,” Ndlozi said.

Manuel said the EFF should learn that it could not be allowed to defame people without proof.

“The rule is still that politicians are protected in Parliament and that is why they can say whatever they want in Parliament. But the moment that they step out outside the doors of Parliament, then the norms of respect must apply,” he said.

The EFF said it would file for leave to appeal before 10am on Friday.