Author: Jeanette Chabalala
30 March 202
EAAB lawsuit: Court orders CEO to provide DA MP with documents as requested
The Western Cape High Court has given Mamodupi Mohlala-Mulaudzi, chief executive officer of the Estate Agency Affairs Board (EAAB), 10 days to hand over documents to DA MP Emma Powell.
Should she fail to make the documents available, then Powell can apply for an order to dismiss Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s defamation claim, the court ruled.
Mohlala-Mulaudzi has filed a R1.5 million defamation suit against Powell following a tweet, which suggested the CEO had gone “rogue”.
The tweet read: “Today, a meeting between EAAB management and NEHAWU shop stewards was terminated when increasingly rogue CEO Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s husband/partner allegedly walked onto state entity’s premises and produced a firearm.”
Powell admitted to posting the tweet, but said it was not defamatory.
She said the tweet was not published with malice, adding it was for the public benefit.
Powell also contends the tweet may very well be described as accurate and fair, in that Mohlala-Mulaudzi received two salary payments from two governmental enterprises simultaneously.
The high court ruled on Friday that Mohlala-Mulaudzi should hand over the documents required by Powell.
The documents include:
- the minutes of every meeting of the board of directors of EAAB since Mohlala-Mulaudzi’s appointment as CEO;
- all written complaints relating to her conduct as CEO from members of the board of directors of EAAB, employees, or any other person affiliated with the board of directors;
- a complaint written by Eugenia Kula-Ameyaw in October 2019 to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu;
- a complaint written by Tumisho Motsepe; and
- all letters of complaint directed at her.
The judge also said Mohlala-Mulaudzi should provide all her salary slips or proof of payment of board fees or any other fees or emoluments paid to her by the South African Broadcasting Corporation while she was EAAB CEO.
She should also furnish all court papers on her action against Kula-Ameyaw for defamation, arising from a letter Kula-Ameyaw wrote to the Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation, Lindiwe Sisulu, in October 2019, including the summons and particulars of claim, the plea, and any further pleadings.
Kula-Ameyaw reportedly painted a bleak picture of the state of affairs at the organisation since Mohlala-Mulaudzi took over.
In 2019, City Press reported that Mohlala-Mulaudzi faced battles on multiple fronts with her colleagues, the public broadcaster and the government, who raised questions about her conduct. Staff also accused her of bullying and arbitrary cutting benefits.
In court papers, Mohlala-Mulaudzi said the documents about her conduct in her position are irrelevant to her action because she instituted the action in her personal capacity
But Judge Derek Wille disagreed.
“… At issue is not the capacity in which the plaintiff [Mohlala-Mulaudzi] is suing the defendant [Powell], but, rather, the enquiry is whether the tweet is true or fair comment, taking into account the context of the tweet, together with the factual position that the plaintiff was the CEO of the EAAB.
“Further, the plaintiff claims that the documents sought are not relevant because the defendant only became aware of these documents subsequent to the institution of proceedings.
“Thus, it is argued that this information would not have been in her knowledge at the time of making the defamatory comments and therefore cannot assist the defendant in her defence.
“Again, I disagree because, in relation to the defence of truth, all that matters is whether the tweet was objectively substantially true and published to the benefit of the public,” the judge said.
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