JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan on Monday filed a defamation complaint against radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leaders who have accused him and his daughter of corruption.
In a speech last week, EFF leader Julius Malema said Gordhan’s daughter Anisha was awarded government contracts as a result of her father’s position in government. Gordhan denies any wrongdoing, and also says his daughter is not corrupt.
The case between Gordhan and Malema could open a new avenue of political jostling between the parties months before a national election, where the smaller EFF is trying to use an anti-corruption platform to challenge key figures in the ruling African National Congress party.
Gordhan, a former finance minister respected by international investors for standing up to former president Jacob Zuma, filed a complaint of crimen injuria and criminal defamation and asked the police to investigate any incitement to violence contained in Malema’s speech.
Crimen injuria is an act of unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another.
Gordhan also laid another complaint at the Equality Court, seeking an apology from Malema and his deputy Floyd Shivambu, as well as damages of 150,000 rand ($11,000).
“The determined defense of corruption and the corrupt, using personal attacks, racism and alleged hate speech is not acceptable and must be challenged,” Gordhan said.
“I have not responded until now to the absolute nonsensical and unsubstantiated attacks, but extending these attacks to my family and threatening harmony amongst the people of South Africa was a step too far. Enough is enough.”
The EFF spokesman did not answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment on Gordhan’s complaint. An official at the party’s headquarters said the EFF leaders were meeting and could issue a statement later.
Malema tweeted that he would open a criminal case against Gordhan on Tuesday on charges ranging from money laundering, corruption, racketeering to fraud. He did not provide details.
Malema made the allegations against Gordhan last week at an EFF rally held outside a building where Gordhan was giving testimony at a judicial inquiry into allegations of state corruption and influence-peddling in Zuma’s administration.
Zuma has denied the allegations. The allegations and other scandals surrounding Zuma’s nine-year rule forced him out of office in February.
($1 = 13.8090 rand)
Reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo; Editing by James Macharia and Alison Williams