Eastern Cape Transport MEC Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe’s defamation case against UDM leader Bantu Holomisa has been dismissed with costs, the Grahamstown High Court has ruled.
Tikana-Gxothiwe had filed an urgent court application with the high court to order Holomisa to retract a statement he made on Twitter, publish an apology and pay her damages of R250,000.
The application came after Holomisa alleged on social media the MEC was the owner of a Cala guesthouse which was to be used as an official quarantine site for Covid-19 patients.
In her founding affidavit, Tikana-Gxothiwe denied owning the guesthouse, adding Holomisa had referred to her as a corrupt person who should be fired.
In the court ruling, Judge Gerald Bloem found she had failed to show the assumed defamatory statement in the tweet referred to her.
“The application must be dismissed for that reason alone,” he said.
Bloem also stated he was surprised Tikana-Gxothiwe did not seize the opportunity to prove she did not have a substantial interest in the Moica Lodge and her daughter, Kwakhanya, was in charge of the lodge in her stead.
“One would have expected the applicant to jump at the opportunity to show in her replying affidavit that those allegations were incorrect. Surprisingly, she did not deliver a replying affidavit.”
Holomisa welcomed the judgment on Tuesday, saying Premier Oscar Mabuyane should take action against Tikana-Gxothiwe.
“The government has no contract with Tikana-Gxothiwe. If he has the political will, he must expel her. The balance of probability is sufficient enough – failure to do so will mean that he knew and is complicit,” he said.
In May, Mabuyane directed the provincial Treasury to conduct a forensic investigation into allegations made against the transport department.
He said the investigation would focus on:
- Improper procurement and the inflated cost of sanitisers.
- Improper procurement of Bailey bridges.
- Improper conduct in the expenditure for the funeral service of the victims of the Centane bus accident.
- Allegations of an improper contract between the department and the Moica Lodge to accommodate employees of the department’s road section for a period of more than a year.
Bloem said while Kwakhanya had stated in her affidavit she was a Moica Lodge shareholder, she did not explain where she received the capital to register, set up and run Moica (Pty) Ltd.
“Absent an explanation from the applicant and her daughter in that regard, the probabilities are that the applicant provided that capital layout to start the business and is in all probability the owner thereof.”
He added this was further fortified by the fact Tikana-Gxothiwe, the business and her daughter shared the same postal address.
“The statement by the respondent that the applicant is the owner of Moica Lodge is, if not true, substantially true. In any event, the ownership of the Moica lodge is a peripheral issue as to whether or not the applicant was involved in or associated with corruption.”
Bloem said in dealing with political matters, courts have traditionally allowed a good deal of latitude for comment.
He said Tikana-Gxothiwe should expect robust and exaggerated comment to be made against her conduct owing to the position she held, adding it could not be said the tweet had injured her esteem.