Supra heads to court to halt ‘smears’

Embattled North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo has filed an urgent application for an interdict to stop damaging claims of corruption being levelled against him.

Mahumapelo, the province’s ANC chairperson, is heading to the high court in Pretoria in his personal capacity and is seeking an order to prohibit four local businesspeople from continuing with their “vicious smear campaign”.

The “outrageously defamatory” claims include an inference that he had a hand in the murder of the former chairperson of the North West Business Forum, Wandile Bozwana, he said. Bozwana died after being shot nine times when a BMW  M3 pulled up next to his car at an intersection along the N1 in Pretoria in October 2015.

The murder triggered widespread speculation that Bozwana was killed because he had threatened to expose corruption in the North West Province. Three people are on trial in the Pretoria magistrate’s court for his murder.

Mahumapelo cites various media reports, an open letter from the North West Business Forum circulated in January and a controversial song calling for his resignation among the causes for his legal action.

In an affidavit, filed on Monday, he claims that four businesspeople who hold leadership positions in the forum are the driving force behind the alleged smear campaign.

Forum chairperson Fana Moraka, secretary Sello Mogodiri, Themba Gwabeni (a former mayor of the Ngaka Modiri District Municipality) and treasurer Oupa Mphomane would stop at nothing to defame him, Mahumapelo said.

The open letter “carries the clear innuendo that I am implicated in the murder of Mr Bozwana”, he said.

This is despite the authors allegedly trying to hide this innuendo by stating that “we seek not to insinuate that the premier is responsible for the death or that he could have ordered the hit”, Mahumapelo’s affidavit states.

The business forum said in a statement it intends to oppose the matter involving its leaders — and dared Mahumapelo “to bring it on”.

Bozwana was a founding member of the organisation, which claims a membership of about 5 000.

“The forum views Mahumapelo’s legal action as a desperate attempt to silence its leaders. He is a public representative who voluntarily availed himself for election to public office,” the statement said.

“He runs the province and is in charge of public funds in excess of R26‑billion per fiscal year. He cannot avoid public scrutiny. We’ll see him in court!”

Mahumapelo said the open letter also likens him to African despots and homeland leaders like Oupa Gqozo, Lucas Mangope, Mobutu Sese Seko and Idi Amin, and ends with the words: “Run Mahumapelo Run.”

“The reference to some of the world’s most brutal dictators, and the violence that characterised their eventual removal … is clearly meant to be understood by myself that a similar fate will befall me,” Mahumapelo said.

He wants the court to grant an interim order pending the hearing to stop the men from further defaming him because the consequences of defamatory information, once published, cannot be undone, he said.

He said that although he has a R6‑million defamation suit against one of the four men, this has so far not stopped the attacks on his character.

Mahumapelo said the smear campaign had stopped for a while but had gained traction again towards the end of last year.

He lists various media reports in support of his case, all of which he said suggest he is “evil and full of lawlessness” and that he has profited from the proceeds of crime through “ill-gotten gains”.

Again referring to the open letter distributed earlier this year, Mahumapelo takes issue with the implication that he is “evil”, “greedy” and corrupt.

The business forum had questioned Mahumapelo’s “unexplained” wealth, saying he had become the country’s richest premier.

He also believes the business forum is behind the production of a controversial song that has been widely circulated on social media platforms.

The forum has denied funding the production of the song, which calls for Mahumapelo’s resignation amid allegations of greed and corruption, and speaks of the “premier who was elected to solve the problem” becoming a problem himself.

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