- The Constitutional Court has ruled that UDM leader Bantu Holamisa failed to prove defamatory allegations against Lebashe Investment Group and fund manager Harita.
- The case dates back to 2018, when Holamisa wrote two letters to President Cyril Ramaphosa making allegations against Lebashe, Harith and some of its directors, asking for an investigation.
- As the Constitutional Court’s ruling leaves only a temporary ban against Halamisa in place from 2018, Lebasche and Harit will now continue legal proceedings for damages.
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The Constitutional Court ruled that the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and its leader Bantu Holomisa failed to prove that the corruption allegations against Lebashe Investment Group and the head of the Harith fund in 2018 were true and in the public interest.
Lebasche is the owner of the Sunday Times and owner of Business Day Arena Holdings. Harith General Partners is a fund manager that invests in infrastructure projects in Africa. It is also part of the Takatso Consortium, the government’s chosen strategic partner for SAA. Businessman Tshepa Makhloele co-founded Harith, founded Lebashe and is chairman of both companies with Takatso.
South Africa’s highest court rejected an appeal against an interim high court ruling that prevented Holomisa from repeating the allegations. The Constitutional Court found that it did not have the right to “unreasonably slander” Leboche and Harit “on the basis that they are fulfilling a constitutional duty.”
“When a public figure clearly defames members of the public, admitting that he or she does not know the truth of what he or she is saying, his or her right to freedom of expression may be reasonably limited,” it found.
How the case unfolded is described in the decision of the Constitutional Court.
In May 2018, Holamisa sent two letters to President Cyril Ramaphosa titled “State Investment Corporation, Public Servants Pension Fund and Suspicion of Corruption; the scandal is bigger than the Gupta family’s takeover of the state.” In June, Holomis sent another, titled “Explosion of Harith and Lebach on Alleged Deprivation of State Investment Corporation.”
Halamisa wanted to persuade Ramaphosa to have a judicial commission of inquiry into state capture look into the allegations made by the whistleblower.
A letter written to Ramaphosa in June was also published on the official UDM website. On his personal Twitter account, Holamisa linked to the June letter and mentioned “another type of state capture where the ultra-rich elites are allegedly looting [the Public Investment Corporation] through Lebashe & Harith companies.’
Holamisa also gave a radio interview and said he would not back down and recant the statements he made in his letters to Ramaphosa regarding “sly dealings between the PIC and Lebashe and Harith General Partners”.
In l “hyenas” of Ramaphosa and PIK.
Lebasche, Harith, Wheatley, Mahloele and Maleketi applied to the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for an interim injunction against UDM and Holamisa. They argued that Galamisa had no good reason to make “such explosive and inherently seditious accusations.” They also claimed that some investment opportunities were lost as a result of the abusive letters and negative publicity. Among them is Vele Asset Managers, which canceled its financing agreement with Lebashe. Investec Private Bank also made an inquiry, expressing concern over the allegations.
The UDM and Holomisa, on the other hand, said they see the lack of transparency and accountability in how public funds are used in South Africa as one of the biggest threats to the rule of law and the country’s democratic establishment itself.
As a result, UDM and Holomisa argued that it is essential that “if corruption is suspected, it should be exposed publicly and official measures should be taken to investigate and eradicate it”. It alleged that the letter addressed to Ramaphosa concerned matters of public interest as public officials were accused of abusing their position in a public organization for private gain.
In 2018, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted an interlocutory injunction against UDM and Holamisa pending a defamation case against Lebasa and Harito. Defamatory statements were also to be removed from social media.
The UDM and Galamisa argued that the order restrained and prevented them from exercising their right to freedom of expression and fulfilling their duties as political actors in terms of the Constitution.
However, the high court found that the letter was defamatory, resulting in irreparable damage to Lebasche, Harita, Wheatley, Mahloela and Maleketi. So they needed a court order to prevent further and lasting harm. A temporary interdict was held to be the only appropriate remedy pending a final judgment on the action for damages.
Galamisa appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal, which upheld the high court ruling, before appealing to the Constitutional Court.
In a statement on Friday, Harith indicated that he would pursue legal action against UDM and Holomisa for defamation damages.
“This legal victory belongs to our stakeholders, investors and employees, who have supported us through the last difficult years, believing that we, as good corporate citizens, conduct our business honestly and in accordance with the law,” Harit said. CEO Sipho Makhubela.
Holamisa did not immediately respond to News24 Business’ request for comment.
The PIC commission of inquiry recommended in its report that the state asset manager and the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) appoint an independent investigator into Harith’s case “as soon as possible”. It found that Harith’s conduct “was motivated by the financial reward of his staff and management, not by any return to the GEPF”.
Harith denies any wrongdoing, saying an independent investigation found it.