/ 2 November 2010

Defence minister threatens DA with defamation suit

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu has sent DA MP David Maynier a lawyer’s letter demanding he retract a statement that she misled Speaker Max Sisulu on the content of secret reports on the military.

“We are instructed that you address to us a letter apologising for these unfortunate and malicious allegations about our client and to publish an unequivocal withdrawal of the statement in all the newspapers where the defamatory remarks were made within two weeks of receiving the letter,” the minister’s lawyer, Barnabas Xulu, wrote in the letter to Maynier.

“We have instructions to pursue all legal avenues available to our client to ensure that you retract your defamatory statements.”

Maynier said the matter would be referred to the DA’s attorneys.

He made the statement on September 5, nearly a year into a tug-of-war between Sisulu and MPs over her refusal to give them insight into two reports compiled by the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission.

The portfolio committee on defence took the unusual step of refusing to process the Defence Amendment Bill until Sisulu disclosed the contents of one of the reports from the interim commission. It claimed it ran the risk of “legislating blind” as the report had informed the drafting of the Bill.

Members backed down following a letter from the speaker, who is the minister’s brother. He warned it was “speculative” to claim a link between the Bill and the report.

The Bill, which seeks to set up a special service commission for the military, was passed by the National Assembly last week. — Sapa