Defamation: Journalist sues suspended lotteries COO

Veteran freelancer Raymond Joseph is suing Phillemon Letwaba, the suspended COO of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), alleging Letwaba defamed him. Letwaba claimed in an interview on Newzroom Afrika that Joseph was targeting him in reports for GroundUp. He said Joseph was embittered because the commission had stopped funding entities relating to him and his family, reports legal writer Tania Broughton. Joseph has won awards for his work on dodgy spending by the NLC, notes the report on the GroundUp site. In Joseph’s summons, which has been issued out of the Western Cape High Court and has been served on Letwaba, he complains about what Letwaba said in an interview with senior journalist Stephen Grootes. In his particulars of claim, Joseph included a transcript of the interview conducted on 29 June.

Letwaba talked about ‘malicious claims’ made by ‘some of the people who have been benefiting from the NLC with multiple organizations and have … decided to assassinate the character of the COO’. He said: ‘…the NLC continues to suffer just because an individual is no longer receiving money sitting in Cape Town with multiple NGOs that have been benefiting from the NLC.’ Joseph says that neither he nor any of his family members have ever applied for or received a lottery grant. But Letwaba said Joseph was a ‘major beneficiary’ of lottery funds. He told Grootes: ‘My character has been attacked by this man since 2014.’ Letwaba then claimed that more than 12 organizations linked to Joseph were no longer receiving lottery funds and suggested Joseph was attacking him because of this. He also claimed Joseph and his wife and family were direct beneficiaries of lottery funding.

Letwaba described Joseph as an 'old man who came out of retirement' to 'attack the integrity of the NLC,' adding: 'I’m saying we have been dealing with lies since 2014 just because one individual who is the major beneficiary of the NLC decided to declare war against the NLC.' Joseph, in his summons, claims that Letwaba’s remarks are not only untrue but defamatory. ‘They were understood by the reasonable audience to mean that I knowingly breached journalistic ethics, was a vengeful and malicious journalist, and had embarked on an untruthful campaign against him and the commission.’ Letwaba has until early December to file a notice to oppose the application and until February next year to file papers.

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