21 February 2013

South Africa: MEC Motsepe Sues City Press for R1.2 Million for Defamation

press release

The MEC for Department of Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (CoGHSTA), Clifford Motsepe, is suing City Press for R1.2-million for defamation over allegations that he tried to bribe a journalist.

Summons was issued today (Thursday) against City Press journalist Sipho Masondo, editor Ferial Haffajee, and the newspaper's owners, Media24 Limited.

MEC Motsepe is suing for a total of R1.2-m damages for defamatory allegations made in an article headed "MEC offers cash to City Press reporter", published in City Press on 10 February 2013.

In the article, Masondo claimed that after visiting the MEC at his home in Polokwane, Motsepe had "reached into his pocket and took out a wad of cash, neatly held together with an elastic band". Masondo also claimed Motsepe had said: "This [wad of cash] is for petrol for the weekend". He allegedly added: "Please take it [the cash]. If you do not use it for petrol, you can use it for something else".

Motsepe insists and affirms that no such incident took place, and in court papers his lawyers have argued that City Press' publication of the allegation was defamatory.

"The statements are false, defamatory and were made unlawfully and intentionally by Mr Masondo in order to defame Mr Motsepe and injure him and his reputation," the court papers state.

Haffajee is being sued for authorising the publication of Masondo's allegation "as if it was a fact, when in truth and reality, they were no more than allegations".

"She knew or ought to have known, by exercise of reasonable care and skill, that the offending statements were false."

Motsepe said Haffajee failed to investigate the truthfulness or otherwise of the offending statements "before she eagerly authorised and approved publication."

Motsepe, himself a lawyer, is represented by Advocate Vincent Maleka SC, Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane, and attorney David Mogaswa.

The newspaper has 10 days to indicate whether it will contest the matter.

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