Moeletsi Mbeki's lawyers say he is claiming R20-million in damages after the M&G published two "wrongful and defamatory" stories about him.
In a letter sent from his lawyers on Friday, Mbeki claimed that two articles written by senior Mail & Guardian politics reporter Mmamaledi Mataboge contained content that was "wrongful and defamatory".
Mbeki also intended to lay a charge against Mataboge and M&G editor-in-chief Nic Dawes at the press ombudsman because he "has been damaged in his reputation and has suffered damages".
"We are surprised and disappointed by Mr Mbeki's approach to this matter and will of course resist his absurd claim," said Dawes on Friday night.
Mbeki claimed that Mataboge's “Surveys sparks feud at Mbeki forum”, published in the M&G on January 25, and “War of words follows Mbeki spat”, published on February 1, contained defamatory statements.
According to the letter the first story contained the following defaming remarks:
- Statements that Mbeki "is accused by Prince Mashele of assisting the Congress of South Africa Trade Unions [Cosatu] to suppress the release of a study to protect 'what appears to be a dirty BEE deal with Numsa [National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa]'."
- That "the release of the [survey's] results was postponed just before the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung after Cosatu told researchers it was “uncomfortable” about it".
- That "the study found that Cosatu shop stewards wanted the Union Federation to form a workers’ party, had lost confidence in the South African Communist Party and would like to see the country’s mines nationalised".
- That "the study found that the majority of the more than 2 000 shop stewards surveyed did not support Jacob Zuma’s re-election as ANC president, preferring instead his former deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe".
- That Mbeki "apparently “gave in to Cosatu’s pressure because he feared that failing to do that would jeopardise a business deal he is persuing with ... Numsa, a powerful Cosatu affiliate".
- That Mbeki "approached Numsa Investment Company to get Numsa to partner with him and acquire a stake in Scaw Metals from the Industrial Development Corporation."
- That Mbeki "purposefully suppressed the survey" and that he "suspended Prince Mashele “apparently to remove him from the process while a solution was sought to make Cosatu happy” ".
In "War of Words follows Mbeki spat", Mbeki said the statements "the research report showed that shop floor officials did not support the re-election of Jacob Zuma as party president" and "Mashele was suspended because he threatened to publicise the findings of the report" were defamatory..