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Anti-corruption activist faces defamation case

- Lee-Anne Bruce

CALS will be in the Makhanda High Court tomorrow defending activist Lungile Mxube who has been accused of defamation for speaking out against corruption

On Thursday, 19 November, the High Court in Makhanda is set to hear argument in a defamation case against Eastern Cape activist Lungile Mxube. CALS is representing Mxube and we argue that this matter is an example of strategic litigation against public participation (otherwise known as a "SLAPP" suit), intended to intimidate and silence a whistle-blower exercising his right to freedom of expression to expose corruption.

Lungile Mxube is a whistle-blower and anti-corruption activist from the Eastern Cape. He is perhaps best known for exposing corruption at the local government level, which has subsequently led to a successful application by the Unemployed People’s Movement to have the Makana Municipality dissolved and placed under administration. Most recently, he has questioned the irregular processes followed to award a contract for a quarantine site in the town of Cala during the current pandemic.

When Mr Mxube and UDM leader Bantu Holomisa posted about these irregularities on social media, "urgent" defamation cases were brought against them by Eastern Cape MEC for Transport, Weziwe Tikana-Gxothiwe, who is implicated in possible corruption. The application against Mr Holomisa has subsequently been dismissed with costs, with the Court finding that Ms Tikana-Gxothiwe does in fact have some stake in the bed and breakfast in Cala selected as a quarantine site.

The application seeking damages of R250,000 against Mr Mxube will be heard on Thursday, 19 November 2020. He is represented by the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS), who argue that this case may be seen as an example of strategic litigation against public participation, otherwise known as a "SLAPP" suit. This kind of meritless lawsuit is used around the world by the powerful in an attempt to intimidate and silence their critics and prevent them from defending their human rights and those of their communities.

"It is clear that Mr Mxube was exercising his right to freedom of expression to bring to light a matter of public concern,” says Vuyolethu Mntonintshi from CALS. “Corruption is a major issue for Eastern Cape communities, impacting many of our other clients who still struggle to access basic services. Yet human rights defenders continue to face threats and intimidation when they try to expose tender irregularities."

The matter is set to be heard virtually by the High Court in Makhanda on Thursday, 19 November 2020.

Read our papers here.

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