Build One SA leader, Mmusi Maimane, has been found guilty of defamation and has been ordered to pay damages amounting to R475,000, along with legal costs.
This ruling comes after Maimane made disparaging statements in a 2018 newsletter, linking former DA members Shaun August, Suzette Ann Little, Gregchan Garreth Barnardo, and Thulani Stemele to alleged tender irregularities. The four former members sued Maimane for R1m each.
In an attempt to resolve the matter, Maimane publicly apologized and offered to pay each of the four former members R35,000 as compensation, in addition to covering their legal costs. However, this offer was rejected as being deemed “too little, too late”.
Throughout the trial, the four former members expressed their willingness to settle for amounts ranging between R200,000 and R300,000. On the other hand, Maimane argued that the demands were excessive and that R35,000 each was a fair compensation.
The Western Cape High Court recently ruled on the matter, setting the total damages amount that Maimane should pay at R475,000. The court acknowledged that Maimane’s initial offer of R35,000 was too low, while the amounts proposed by the former councillors were relatively high. The court, therefore, exercised its discretion and determined the appropriate damages for each plaintiff as follows: Mr August: R100,000, Ms Little: R120,000, Mr Barnardo: R135,000, and Mr Stemele: R120,000.
In addition to the damages, Maimane has also been ordered to pay the legal costs associated with the court appearances.
During the trial, the four former members shared the impact of the allegations on their lives, stating that it had hindered their ability to find work or employment opportunities and had tarnished their reputation within the community.
Maimane initially offered a public apology, followed by a more extensive one issued through his legal team just before the trial. The court acknowledged that this may have been an attempt to prevent the matter from proceeding to court.