Say sorry for calling me a cockroach or I’ll sue for R1m: Malema to Kenny Kunene

Lawyers acting for the EFF leader say Kunene’s comments suggested or implied that the CiC was ‘a criminal’ and ‘subhuman’

22 November 2021 - 20:15
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EFF president Julius Malema.
RED MY LIPS EFF president Julius Malema.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

EFF leader Julius Malema gave Patriotic Alliance chairperson Kenny Kunene until the close of business on Monday to withdraw alleged “defamatory statements” he made during a TV interview last week — or face a R1m lawsuit.

Kunene, who was responding to Malema’s reference to PA leaders as “pantiti” (convicts), referred to the EFF leader as a little frog, an irritating cockroach and a criminal, among other things, during an interview with eNCA last Thursday.

Malema is now accusing Kunene of hate speech and tribalism, and wants him and the PA to retract the statements or face being sued for R1m each.

Malema’s lawyers, Ian Levitt Attorneys, have written to Kunene, calling on him to retract comments they say have caused “significant reputational damage” to their client.

The lawyers said in the November 19 letter: “Your defamatory statements are meant to impugn the integrity and good name of our client by suggesting, alternatively implying, that he is a criminal, he is subhuman, with the further purpose and/or intent of dehumanising to him and he is harmful to others and is vermin.”

Malema’s lawyers said Kunene’s comments were presented as statements and/or conclusions of fact — “to the extent that any evidence could be presented to support your claims, none was offered (understandably, because none exists)”.

They said even if there was some factual basis to Kunene’s statements, which they insisted there was not, his repeated use of particular phrases demonstrated animus injuriandi and/or intention to defame and/or mala fides.

Your defamatory statements and/or conduct are vexatious, misplaced, spurious and untrue,” reads the letter to Kunene.

They said Kunene made the “defamatory statements” deliberately to exact political revenge on Malema and the EFF in his capacity as the chairperson of the PA.

Your desire to exact political revenge is related to the recent local government elections in which you and our client were political rivals. In other words, your intention or purpose was to score political points by deliberately impugning our client’s character.

The defamatory statements were also made in retaliation against our client for labelling you a ‘convict’.

Insofar as our client labelled you a convict, we do not intend to remind you of your criminal convictions which are not only a statement of fact but a matter of public record.”

They demanded that Kunene retract his statements in the form of a public statement of apology to Malema for the allegations made and on account of them being untrue and defamatory.

They want Kunene to issue a public statement on all his social media accounts and a press statement to all media houses with which he conducted interviews.

Malema has threatened to sue Kunene for R1m if he does not accede to his demands.

Malema’s lawyers also warned Kunene that, because he was wearing PA regalia during the interview and speaking in his capacity as a party representative, they reserved the right to sue him and the party on a joint and several basis, should litigation become necessary.

The EFF leader is also considering laying complaints with the Electoral Commission for Kunene’s conduct, which he says is a breach of the Electoral Act and the Electoral Code, and to bring proceedings against both him and his party before the electoral court.

Malema’s lawyers said they also recorded Kunene repeatedly using the term “cockroach” when referring to Malema and speaking of “dealing with” him.

The term cockroach was used to justify the inhumane treatment meted out on Tutsis by Hutus during the Rwandan genocide,” they said.

The term became popularised and ingrained in the public sphere as prominent politicians used the term, which was then flighted on various media channels and served as a basis for the crimes committed in that country.”

They noted that the use of the term “cockroach” could amount to hate speech and/or discrimination as defined in Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act and the constitution.

A similar letter was dispatched to PA’s leader Gayton McKenzie demanding that he publicly distance himself from Kunene’s statements and that his party retract the statements made against Malema.

They warned McKenzie that a failure to do that might result in the party being also sued for R1m, money that they said Malema would later donate.

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