Sygnia boss sues Manyi for concerted ‘smear campaign’

The Johannesburg High Court next week will hear an urgent application brought by Sygnia chief executive Magda Wierzycka against Mzwanele Manyi for statements she says amount to intimidation, harassment, defamation and hate speech.

In her founding affidavit, Wierzycka says Manyi – a former government spokesperson and the new owner of Gupta media assets – embarked on a concerted campaign against her, which has resulted in multiple threats to her personal safety and reputational harm to herself and Sygnia, a JSE listed asset manager.

It began on August 1 when Manyi posted a link to CNBC interview from April and tweeted: “This CEO should be investigated for economic terrorism.”

The part of the interview Manyi took issue with was where Wierzycka was asked about how to boost investor confidence. Having just explained that President Jacob Zuma’s actions had caused immense harm to the economy, Wierzycka said she would offer Zuma as much money as he would like and every immunity “because I think the damage that can be done to this country and this economy in a very short period of time is so much greater than any amount of money he could possibly want”, she said.

On August 2, Manyi tweeted that Wierzycka was a “downright RACIST” who “objectifies black people as things that can be bought”. Later that day he tweeted to say he wondered if Wierzycka was related to Janusz Waluś – who had killed SACP leader Chris Hani. “Magda is willing to pay to get Zuma OUT,” he added.

The tweets continued in the days that followed, claiming Wierzycka was one of the faces of “White Monopoly Capital” and also wanted to make South Africa ungovernable.

Wierzycka says Manyi sought deliberately to pervert the interview to threaten, intimidate and stifle her in exercising her constitutional rights. She said she believed she was a target because of her stance against corruption and because she had spoken out against Zuma.

Wierzycka said Manyi’s followers then went on to defame her and Sygnia in tweets – some of these Manyi retweeted. All this has meant she has had to hire a security company for protection. On August 3, @proudlykhoikhoi responded to Manyi saying: “Where can we find this Magda? She needs to be stopped and eliminated.”

On 8 August, @Makhaya129 posted to Wierzycka’s account saying: “You take your wealth and plunge us into a life of poverty, we will take your lives. Rest assured it is only a matter of time.” Wierzycka further lists two instances where her security found suspicious individuals appeared to be observing her.

In his answering affidavit, Manyi said Wierzycka was trying to suppress “fair comment on social-economic issues in South Africa that does not accord with her own world view”.

He said the comments about paying out Zuma was offensive to him as a voter and to the Constitution and accused Wierzycka of using her substantial financial muscle to silence his views.

In her replying affidavit, filed on Wednesday, Wierzycka denied some Manyi’s statements were fair comment, noting the constitution did not protect hate speech.

Manyi said he viewed Wierzycka’s “offer to bribe the president” as corrupt and could well constitute terrorist activity. He has since laid a charge at Morningside Police station.

He strongly denied the tweets were unlawful and said he had no vicarious liability for tweets made by his followers. He also denied they were targeted at Wirerzycka for her efforts at fighting corruption or that there was a campaign against her. Manyi said he had encountered Wierzycka for the first time when he learnt of the CNBC interview.

He said the security threats described in Wierzycka’s founding affidavit did not demonstrate actual harm or harm reasonably apprehended, offering “nothing more than this skulduggery” and “imagined sightings of suspicious individuals”.

In the founding affidavit, Wierzycka noted that Manyi has been linked to the Gupta family – in respect of whom substantial evidence has emerged of their corrupt dealing with government.

In his opposing affidavit, however, Manyi claims the only link he has with the Gupta family is that he was host of a current affairs programme at ANN7 in which the family had a majority shareholding.

But Wierzycka said Manyi had neglected to say he has just acquired this stake with the help of financing from the family. He further denied forwarding a business person’s curriculum vitae to the Gupta family as was exposed by a series of leaked emails dubbed “the Gupta leaks”. “I never sent any CV from a Gmail account”, he said.

However, Manyi has previously responded to media reports to say there was nothing wrong in trying to help people get jobs.

Wierzycka has asked the court to urgently interdict Manyi from making or publishing further such statements about herself or Sygnia and that he be directed to remove the statements from his social media accounts.

Manyi responded that the matter was not urgent, that the requirements for an interdict were not met, and that any interdict granted would only have “academic effect”.

The case is set down to be heard on 7 September.


R1.1-billion land claim “captured”

This story was produced in partnership with Pulitzer Center. Details of the land claim settlement for MalaMala, one...

Lekwa municipality won’t answer questions about why children died in...

Three children are dead. More than a dozen homes have been gutted by fires in the past six months. And, as...

Failure to investigate TRC cases during the Mandela era delayed...

Counsel for late trade unionist Neil Aggett’s family decries the slow pace of instituting an inquest into his death

SANDF colonel accused of swindling colleagues in UN business scam

A senior soldier who is part of South Africa’s peacekeeping missions is accused by her colleagues of swindling them out of of hundreds of thousands of rands in a nonexistent business deal

Press Releases

South Africans unsure of what to expect in 2020

Almost half (49%) of South Africans, 15 years and older, agree or strongly agree that they view 2020 with optimism.

KZN teacher educators jet off to Columbia University

A group of academics were selected as participants of the programme focused on PhD completion, mobility, supervision capacity development and the generation of high-impact research.

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.