South Africa


Trevor Manuel to take JJ Tabane to court regarding Cope formation allegations

Trevor Manuel to take JJ Tabane to court regarding Cope formation allegations
Illustrative image// Former Minister Trevor Manuel EPA/Laurent Gillieron/Onkgopotse JJ Tabane. (Photo by Gallo Images/Sharon Seretlo

The former finance minister is seeking an order from the Johannesburg high court that will force the media personality to retract statements made in a recent episode of the Hustler’s Corner SA podcast. Tabane has previously refused to retract his claim that Manuel was involved in the formation of the Congress of the People.

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel is set to have his day in court over alleged defamatory claims made by media personality Onkgopotse JJ Tabane. This comes after Tabane refused to withdraw his claim — made during an episode of the Hustler’s Corner SA podcast on 15 April — that Manuel was involved in the formation of the Congress of the People (Cope).

A notice of motion dated Wednesday, 18 May, shows that Manuel will apply to the Johannesburg high court for an order to force Tabane and Sbusiso ‘DJ Sbu’ Leope, host of the podcast, to retract the “false and unlawful” statements. The application is set to take place on 7 June 2022.

The order would interdict Tabane and Leope from publishing or republishing both the claim that Manuel was involved in the formation of Cope, and the podcast episode in which this claim was made. It would further ensure that the episode, as well as any other references to the “defamatory statements” made in it, be removed from YouTube, social media and other platforms, within 24 hours of the date of the order.

The choice to settle the matter in court was preceded by a letter from Manuel to Tabane, requesting that the allegations be withdrawn and that Tabane apologise for making them.

However, Tabane responded by denying that the statements he made were defamatory, according to Manuel’s founding affidavit to the Johannesburg high court.

Attorney Eric Mabuza later wrote to Manuel’s attorneys on behalf of Tabane denying that the claims were false and refusing to withdraw them, according to a TimesLIVE article from 14 May.

Defamatory statements

During the podcast episode on 15 April, Tabane claimed that Manuel was “in the background” of the formation of Cope.

“In fact, Tito Mboweni and Trevor Manuel used to fight in the background about how they wanted to be involved [in Cope],” Tabane said on the podcast.

IOL reported on 9 May that Minister of Tourism Lindiwe Sisulu has drawn President Cyril Ramaphosa’s attention to the allegations that Manuel and other political leaders had been involved in the formation of Cope. 

It is this report that drew Manuel’s attention to the statements. “The article and Minister Sisulu’s reaction to the episode show that the statements attracted the attention and serious concern of the highest offices of political power in South Africa and in the ANC and that the statements portrayed me in a very negative light,” stated Manuel in his founding affidavit.

Manuel emphasised that the allegations are false, adding that at the time Cope was formed in 2008, he was minister of finance and a member of the ANC’s National Executive Committee. Involvement in the formation of the new party would therefore have constituted misconduct.

“The statements are serious allegations against me, my integrity, and my loyalty to the ANC,” said Manuel in the affidavit. He said that it was in the public interest for his application to be heard on an “urgent basis”, given the assault on his dignity and the importance that the public be made aware of the “respondents’ lies”.

Should the court rule in favour of Manuel, the court order will demand that both Tabane and Leope publish apologies and retractions regarding the Cope statements on all websites and social media platforms under their control. The apologies must remain up for at least five business days, according to Wednesday’s notice of motion.

Manuel has further demanded that Tabane and Leope pay him R100,000 in damages, jointly. DM/MC


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