AfriForum is gearing up for a defamation suit against Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi following his televised claim that they were trying to “assassinate” him, its head of policy and action Ernst Roets said on Sunday.
“Lesufi went on television … and said that AfriForum has been following him, and AfriForum has been following his children, and AfriForum has been trying to assassinate him, and AfriForum has been hacking his bank accounts.
“And obviously none of that is true so we regard that as … I mean it is just blatantly a lie.
“[I]t is a clear example of defamation which is something that we will certainly take steps with regard to.”
Roets stated as a matter “fact” that AfriForum has done “none of the things” that Lesufi alleged.
Comment was not immediately available from Lesufi or his spokesperson, but Lesufi tweeted on Sunday night that AfriForum launched a campaign against him.
In a video put up by the Gauteng department of education, Lesufi said he was being targeted because he was one of the very few people who resisted their attempt to build an Afrikaans-only university.
He said he was being targeted because for the first time the people waiting in queues are not only of one colour, and that there are schools named after apartheid leaders like Hendrik Verwoerd whose names have been changed.
In a live stream of the full press conference on Sunday posted by the SABC, Lesufi said AfriForum is taking advantage of the Constitution and genuine fears of certain sections of society.
The claims of irregular expenditure are a “smoke screen” and it was not money that was stolen. The head of department responsible for the process might have found that companies did not add certain documents for example, but it does not mean the service was not rendered.
He added: “Gone are the days of the schools that belong to klein baases (small boy bosses) alone.”
He said no pupils would be without a place by November 30, and discussed a range of measures to make sure this happen.
AfriFroum started an online petition calling on Gauteng Premier David Makhura to fire Lesufi.
The campaign titled #LesufiMustFall, calls for his dismissal over the way the online registration system for a school place in 2020 is being handled; the alleged misappropriation of a large amount of money by the department, and his mistakenly saying a Springbok supporter was wearing an old South African flag.
The acrimony between AfriForum and Lesufi has been building over their differences of opinion on Afrikaans language teaching, and schools dedicated to education in the language.
Lesufi has been accused by AfriForum of being “race obsessed”.
As the debate became more heated on Twitter, on Sunday night Lesufi retweeted from an account named simply “Ben”, which was created in November, and contained racial slurs.
Users of the social media platform became angry, and then it emerged that somebody had reported it, with discussion moving to whether it may be a fake account.