Phosa fast-tracks R10m defama­tion case

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Se­nior ANC fig­ure­heads Mathews Phosa and David Mabuza will square up in the North Gaut­eng High Court on May 9.

Phosa ap­proached the court to set a date for a R10 mil­lion civil claim that Mabuza wants to in­sti­tute against him.

Mabuza, the pre­mier of Mpumalanga and a close con­fi­dant of Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, an­nounced ear­lier this year that he planned to in­sti­tute a R10 mil­lion defama­tion suit against Phosa for la­belling him as an apartheid spy.

Now Phosa has dar­ingly ap­proached the high court de­mand­ing a trial date be set be­cause he feels that “jus­tice de­layed is jus­tice de­nied”.

The reg­is­trar of the court has sub­se­quently set the case for May 9 next year – set­ting the stage for one of the coun­try’s most high-pro­file po­lit­i­cal law­suits.

State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter David Mahlobo is ex­pected to be sub­poe­naed to tes­tify in the civil mat­ter.

Phosa is a for­mer ANC trea­surer-gen­eral. He was Mpumalanga pre­mier be­tween 1994 and 1999, dur­ing which time he ap­pointed Mabuza as his ed­u­ca­tion MEC. He is now a lawyer and busi­ness­man.

“I be­lieve that DD [Mabuza] has no case and that be­cause he went pub­lic in­ten­tion­ally, and ma­li­ciously lied, all these need to be ex­posed, [along with] all the shenani­gans we have since dis­cov­ered,” Phosa said. “The rest will be ven­ti­lated in court.” Mabuza’s spokesper­son, Zi­bonele Mncwango, de­clined to re­spond to ques­tions to clar­ify if the pre­mier’s lawyers were stalling and if they still had a case, given that Mabuza had a fall­out with his key wit­ness, Jan Ven­ter. Mncwango said the mat­ter was “sub ju­dice”. The ruckus started in Septem­ber 2014 when Phosa sub­mit­ted a re­port to ANC deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral Jessie Duarte that al­leged that Mabuza was an apartheid spy co­de­named PN485 who spied on se­nior ANC lead­ers – in­clud­ing Zuma, ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga and the late Al­bertina Sisulu – be­tween 1985 and 1993.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, Mabuza worked with no­to­ri­ous apartheid killers Eu­gene de Kock, the for­mer Vlak­plaas com­man­der, and se­cu­rity po­lice­man Bu­tana No­fomela.

Mabuza has de­nied the al­le­ga­tion. His de­nial was bol­stered by Ven­ter, who was Phosa’s but­ler at the time.

When Ven­ter lost his job at Phosa’s house, he al­leged that he saw his for­mer boss be­ing as­sisted by an as­so­ciate, Nick El­liot, to draft the re­port in which the spy al­le­ga­tions are con­tained.

Ven­ter be­came a key wit­ness in the mat­ter and sub­se­quently gave an af­fi­davit to po­lice on Fe­bru­ary 25 this year in sup­port of a case of crim­i­nal defama­tion Mabuza opened against Phosa.

Ven­ter has, how­ever, made an about-turn and apol­o­gised to Phosa for drag­ging his name through the mud af­ter Phosa laid per­jury and crim­i­nal defama­tion charges, and suc­cess­fully ap­plied for a gag­ging or­der against him. He also in­sti­tuted a civil claim of R53 000 against his for­mer but­ler.

But the two have now kissed and made up, with Ven­ter say­ing he was paid to lie about Phosa. City Press has seen some pay­ments amount­ing to R15 000, which were trans­ferred by Mabuza’s lawyer, Ian Small-Smith, into Ven­ter’s ac­count.

Small-Smith has de­nied he paid the money on Mabuza’s be­half, say­ing Ven­ter had asked for it to buy food.

Phosa said Mabuza’s case “had no leg to stand on” since Ven­ter’s change of heart.

Mncwango could not be drawn into com­ment­ing about whether Mabuza had re­quested Pres­i­dent Zuma to set up a com­mis­sion of in­quiry to in­ves­ti­gate the spy al­le­ga­tions.

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