Johannesburg - Businessman and ANC benefactor Robert Gumede has threatened to sue the Sunday Independent for R1 billion – the biggest defamation claim in South African history.
The intended lawsuit relates to an article on March 2, under the headline “ANC funder probed”, which states that Gumede’s JSE-listed IT firm, Gijima, was the subject of an investigation authorised by President Jacob Zuma.
According to the article, Zuma signed the proclamation for the Special Investigating Unit to probe the tender awarded by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform to the billionaire’s IT firm.
The unit will investigate the R360 million contract that Gijima failed to complete despite the department paying it millions of rand.
The newspaper yesterday received a letter from Gumede’s attorneys that gives notice of his intention to sue.
The letter claimed that the article was defamatory and the headline sensational, causing Gumede “serious commercial and reputational damage”.
The lawyers have been instructed to institute legal proceedings against Independent News and Media South Africa; the executive chairman, Dr Iqbal Survé, the group executive editor, Karima Brown, journalist Mogomotsi Magome; and the acting editor of the Sunday Independent, Japhet Ncube.
“Our clients intend instituting legal proceedings for a civil claim against the aforementioned parties for defamation which claim may very well be the largest defamation claim ever pursued in South Africa which claim may exceed R1bn. Criminal charges will be pursued for criminal defamation,” they said.
The letter states that Gumede is on record for supporting media freedom but that he will take action against the media if damage is caused to his reputation and/or the reputation of his companies through reckless and false reporting.
Last night, Ncube would not comment and said that the company’s lawyers would deal with the matter. - Saturday Star