South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi plans to sue the lawyer representing a group of Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders who are challenging the cancellation of the permit.
According to News24, Motsoaledi will seek R200 000 from the lawyer for defamation if he does not withdraw his tweets and comments. The money is to be donated to a charity.
But the lawyer, Simba Chitando, said he would not back down.
Advocate Simba Chitando told News24 on Monday that Motsoaledi demanded that he withdraw comments to the media and delete comments on social media about millions the department had apparently made from ZEP holders. Chitando said in a statement:
The minister also demands that I pay him R200 000 on the grounds that my legal arguments are defamatory.
A spokesperson for the minister, Siya Ooza confirmed the minister’s intentions. Ooza said:
The minister has instructed his attorneys to issue a defamation cease and desist letter against Mr Simba Chitando.
The minister’s lawyers will proceed to launch an application in the [Gauteng] High Court…in Johannesburg against Mr Chitando.
The minister takes issue with Chitando’s statements that according to affidavits the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) filed, it told Treasury that R145 803 928 was required for the Zimbabwe exemption programme. He was told that Treasury only made R15 million available to the DHA, so the ZEP programme was not sustainable.
However, Chitando’s view is that the money paid by an estimated 180 000 ZEP holders, excluding unsuccessful applicants, at R1 090 each, amounted to around R200 million.
Chitando said during media interviews that the state committed “fraud” against the citizens of another country.
This is what Motsoaledi wants him to withdraw saying the remarks defame the minister and impair his reputation and dignity.
They also take issue with Chitando’s comment that Motsoaledi is a liar, which he made during an announcement that the Zimbabwe Permit Holders Association (ZEPA), represented by Chitando and his attorneys, had withdrawn their application for a review of the decision to end the permits.
The DHA announced last year that its ZEP category of residence would be terminated by the end of December 2021, and gave the ZEP holders a 12-month grace period to regularise their stay in SA.