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'Manuel the Manipulator'

Published May 21, 2008

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By Ella Smook

Finance Minister Trevor Manuel's High Court application to have him permanently gagged should be dismissed, arms deal critic Terry Crawford-Browne submitted in papers before the Cape High Court on Tuesday.

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After earlier securing an urgent interdict preventing Crawford-Browne from publishing "defamatory" allegations about Manuel's alleged involvement in the controversial arms deal, Manuel in April launched an application for a permanent interdict.

In granting the initial interdict, Judge Andre le Grange said he had found that "a strong prima facie right to the court's protection had been established", and ordered Crawford-Browne to desist from publishing allegations relating to Manuel and his role in the arms deal.

In his subsequent application for a permanent interdict, Manuel listed the offending allegations published by Crawford-Browne, and said "a reasonable reader" would understand Crawford-Browne's statements to imply that the Minister of Finance had "committed the criminal offence of corruption", "committed other related criminal offences such as fraud, money laundering, racketeering and tax evasion", and "committed the offence of obstruction of justice".

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Crawford-Browne's statements were "defamatory", "wrongfully and unlawfully made" and made with intent to do harm, Manuel said in the application.

As a result of the publication of the offending statements, his reputation had been damaged - as an individual and in the performance of his public duties as the Minister of Finance of South Africa, Manuel submitted.

In summarising his response to Manuel's application, Crawford-Browne said on Tuesday that Manuel was abusing the court in an attempt to "cloak the cover-up of the arms deal scandal with spurious legal propriety" and that Manuel's summons was an "abuse of constitutional rights to freedom of expression".

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He added that his "criticisms" have been "fair, accurate and in the public interest, and therefore not defamatory".

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