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ANC takes DA to court for 'spreading malicious lies'

Sapa

The ANC is set to take the DA to court over an SMS about President Jacob Zuma and his Nkandla homestead.

President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla homestead as pictured in October 2013. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The ANC is set to take the Democratic Alliance (DA) to court for "spreading malicious lies" about President Jacob Zuma and his Nkandla homestead.

The ruling party said on Thursday the DA was guilty of violating electoral codes and laws.

"In recent weeks, the DA has been engaging in spreading malicious lies about the president, deliberately distorting the findings in the public protector's report," ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said in a statement.

The ANC had therefore launched an urgent application in the high court in Johannesburg to stop the DA from "violating" the Electoral Act and Electoral Code of Conduct.

These prohibited electioneering based on false information.

"On March 20, the ANC learnt of a bulk SMS, distributed by or on behalf of the DA, falsely accusing the president of having stolen public money to build his private residence in Nkandla."

Mthembu said the bulk SMS contained the message: "The Nkandla report shows how Zuma stole your money to build his R246 million home. Vote DA on 7 May to beat corruption. Together for change."

'Flagrant disregard'
This, he said, demonstrated a "flagrant disregard" of the election pledge, and was a violation of the Code of Conduct and the Electoral Act. "These false accusations are designed to influence voters to perceive the ANC negatively and to distort public discourse." 

Mthembu said the court application followed a letter of demand, sent to the DA on March 24, "wherein we demanded the DA ... retract and apologise for the false and vindictive text messages".

However, the main opposition party had "arrogantly refused to retract and apologise". Further, the DA had used these "deliberately fabricated false accusations" to call for Zuma's impeachment.

"These false accusations unduly prejudice the person of the president [and] the ANC, and poison the electoral atmosphere. In this way they have undermined the fact that Parliament has not received and considered the report of the public protector."

"It is the view of the ANC that chapter nine institutions, including that of the public protector Thuli Madonsela should report to Parliament in writing on the outcome of their work which required Parliament's attention."

"We agree with the chief whip of the ANC [Stone Sizani] that such work assists Parliament with its oversight role and holding the executive and other state institutions accountable.

"The public protector's response to the ANC chief whip's assertion on the impeachment said that her office had not submitted its report to Parliament, and that secondly she has not requested Parliament to act on the report."

This emphasised the view that there was no basis for impeachment arising out of her report.

Defence
Meanwhile, the DA said it welcomed the ANC's decision to approach the high court in Johannesburg on Thursday after it accused the DA of violating the electoral code of conduct. 

"We are looking forward to defending our right to hold the president to account for improperly benefiting from the use of millions of rands in public money on his private residence," federal executive chairperson James Selfe said in a statement.

Selfe said his party would oppose the ANC's application. "We intend to oppose this application since we believe the comment issued in the SMS was fair within the context of the many damning findings of the report," he said.

"The full basis of our legal defence will only be disclosed once it has been finalised by our legal team." – Sapa

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