Advocate Tembeka Ngcukaitobi (right) was representing the EFF after Sanef approached the court following the alleged intimidation of journalists. Picture: Brenda Masilela/ ANA

Pretoria - A legal representative for Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) leader Julius Malema on Tuesday told the Equality Court that his client cannot be held liable for the actions of his party's followers.

Tembeka Ngcukaitobi was presenting his heads of arguments on Tuesday after the South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) approached the court following the large-scale intimidation of journalists on social media by purported supporters of the far-left party. 

He said the law did not impose liability on a political party for statements made by its supporters.

"Sanef wants to hold Malema accountable for abuse which emanates from third parties.If people abuse journalists and hide under the EFF, the party shouldn't be held accountable, those people must be responsible."

He said the EFF and Malema were equally appalled by Twitter trolls harassing journalists, adding that said trolls were equally abusive towards the EFF.

Ngcukaitobi asked whether the EFF was not being used as a scapegoat.

Sanef wants to stop the EFF leadership from threatening journalists and publishing their personal details on public platforms. 

It also wants the court to order the EFF to publicly apologise to journalists listed as complainants in this case.

Ngcukaitobi argued that Malema was opposed to violence, and therefore would not incite violence among his followers. He said Malema had made clear his party's stance on violence.

"Violence is for those who are empty in the head, the EFF thrives on superior logic," he told the court, quoting Malema.

Ngcukaitobi argued that some of the statements and tweets by Malema, which were read out in court on Monday and described as hate speech, were not in fact not hate speech, but rather insults.

He mentioned one of the tweets where Malema replied to a journalist with the words: "You are sick. Go to hell Satan."

Ngcukaitobi said this could be construed as crude and insulting but it did not amount to hate speech.

"It's not hate speech, it's an insult and it is absolutely essential to draw these distinctions, and they have been drawn for us, luckily, by the Supreme Court of Appeal," Ngcukaitobi said.

The matter continues. The Equality Court is sitting in the North Gauteng High Court.

African News Agency (ANA)