The Johannesburg High Court has ruled that bribery allegations businessman Mthunzi Mdwaba made against Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana are unlawful.
Mdwaba has been ordered to pay damages to Godongwana and cannot conduct any interviews where he mentions the finance minister or any other minister he had accused.
Last year, Mdwaba accused Godongwana and other ministers of trying to solicit a R500 million bribe from him in order for his company, Thuja Capital, to bag a R5 billion tender from the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
Godonngwana subsequently sued Mdwaba for defamation, demanding R1 million in the suit, citing that a variety of news stations interviewed Mdwaba, and the allegations made against him had destroyed his reputation.
Johannesburg High Court judge Dario Dosio ruled that the assertions made by Mdwaba were “defamatory” and “false”.
“The failure [by Mdwaba] to establish if what [unnamed individuals] told him was substantially true is fatal to this defence. The public cannot be expected to believe these statements where there is no proof to substantiate the allegations,” said the judge.
Dosio also said that Godongwana had to bring these proceedings to protect his rights and reputation because he was “a victim of a vicious assault on his dignity”.
Mdwaba told the court that he believed the allegations were “substantially” true and published in the public interest.
In the court papers initially filed, Godonwana said that “according to Mr Mdwaba’s statements, they are intended and understood by those who are on social media, watch television or have access to newspapers to mean that I am corrupted and involved in the solicitation of a bribe in the amount of R500,000,000.”
“These allegations cast serious aspersions on my character and integrity. They undermine the contribution that I have made to this country both as a minister of finance and as a member of the African National Congress (ANC),” he added.