(Bloomberg) — Less than a week since vowed to go to war to protect the independence of the South African Reserve Bank, Governor Lesetja Kganyago has approached the courts to protect his name after a racial slur from a ruling party official.
Kganyago is suing Andile Lungisa, a municipal councilor for the African National Congress, for defamation for a posting on Twitter about the governor’s defense of the central bank’s mandate. Lungisa on Tuesday posted the first page of the summons that was served on him.
This is not the first time Kganyago has gone to the courts for resolve a dispute, but the previous occasion it was on behalf of the central bank.
He successfully fought off a proposal by the nation’s anti-graft ombudsman two years ago to change the institution’s inflation-targeting mandate. The nation’s top court found Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to be personally liable for 15% of the central bank’s legal costs in that case.
Lungisa’s series of Tweets in June began as support for the ANC’s proposal to nationalize the Reserve Bank, before targeting Kganyago. He described the governor as “a lackey of racist people” and used a highly offensive racial slur, according to the court documents.
Reserve Bank spokeswoman Thoraya Pandy confirmed the legal action when contacted by phone and said the matter was now in the hands of the court.
The governor has said the debate about the ownership of the central bank is a distraction from the real problems facing the economy and that it could be used as “Trojan horse” for another attempt to change the mandate. He told reporters at a lunch in Johannesburg last week he would “go to war” if the constitutionally enshrined independence of the central bank is threatened.
The spat also highlights the racial tensions that still exist in South Africa 25 years after the end of white minority rule, and the extent to which race is often used as weapon in public discourse.
Lungisa is currently out on bail pending an appeal of a conviction for assault after he smashed a glass water jug over the head of a Democratic Alliance councilor during a meeting in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in 2016, Johannesburg-based Business Day reported on Tuesday. The newspaper first reported on the summons that was served on Lungisa.
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