MEC should ‘expect robust, even exaggerated, comments’, says judge
The high court in Grahamstown on Tuesday dismissed, with costs, a defamation application by Eastern Cape transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxotiwe against United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa.
Tikana-Gxotiwe had asked the court on May 24 to order Holomisa to retract a Twitter post, publish an apology on his Twitter account and pay damages to her. She launched the application after Holomisa published a Twitter post on April 16.
The tweet read: “#ComradesInCorruption are at it again. Sakhisizwe Civil Society Structures Forum gravely concerned about the EC Provincial Executive’s decision to quarantine 18 suspected #COVID_19 patients in #MiocaLodge, #Cala. This lodge is owned by MEC Wezizwe Tikane-Gxotiwe. Makagxothwe!”
Tikana-Gxotiwe complained that, through the tweet, Holomisa claimed or insinuated that she was involved in corruption, that she owned the Mioca Lodge, that the lodge would be used to quarantine 18 suspected Covid-19 patients and that, because of her ownership of the lodge, she should be fired.
Holomisa denied the tweet was defamatory of her.
Tikana-Gxotiwe complained that Mioca Lodge did not belong to her.
“It is telling that she did not indicate in her founding affidavit to whom the Mioca Lodge belonged,” Judge Gerald Bloem said in his judgment.
Bloem said Holomisa alleged in his answering affidavit that the evidence showed that Tikana-Gxotiwe was the true owner of Mioca Lodge, or that she had a substantial interest in it, and that her daughter, Kwakhayna Tikana, who was born during February 1994, was in charge thereof in her stead.
Holomisa had invited the MEC to explain how her daughter, at age 21, could have registered a private company.
“One would have expected (Tikana-Gxotiwe) to jump at the opportunity to show in her replying affidavit that those allegations were incorrect. Surprisingly she did not deliver a replying affidavit,” Bloem said.
Bloem said Tikana-Gxotiwe’s daughter deposed to a replying affidavit wherein she stated she was the owner, only shareholder and managing director of Mioca Lodge since its inception in April 2015.
“She did not attempt to explain from where she obtained the capital to register, set up and run Mioca (Pty) Ltd.
“Absent an explanation from (Tikana-Gxotiwe) or her daughter in that regard, the probabilities are that (Tikana-Gxotiwe) provided the capital layout to start the business and is in all probability the owner thereof,” Bloem said.
He said those probabilities are fortified by the fact that the Tikana-Gxotiwe, her daughter and Mioca (Pty) Ltd share the same postal address.
Bloem said the ordinary reader will understand the tweet to mean that Tikana-Gxotiwe must be fired because she decided to accept the decision of the Eastern Cape provincial executive to accommodate the patients in her lodge.
“No ordinary reasonable reader will understand the tweet to mean the applicant must be fired because she was corrupt,” the judge said.
Bloem said: “As a politician, the applicant should realise she should not be treated as an ordinary member of society. She should expect robust, even exaggerated, comments to be made about her conduct, as was the case herein.”