"The buffalo is going down!" was Andile Mngxitama's triumphant comment after Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's attempts to prevent the publication of salacious personal details were scuppered by the South Gauteng High Court.
Judge Bashir Vally, during a dramatic night in court 9E in the South Gauteng High Court in central Johannesburg, said Ramaphosa failed to provide the court with enough information to persuade him to grant an interdict. Ramaphosa asked the court to prevent the Sunday Independent from publishing a front-page story on Sunday with details of alleged affairs he had been conducting with a number of women.
Steven Motale, editor of the Sunday Independent, sat next to socialite Kenny Kunene in court. Black First Land First's Mngxitama sat behind them, while Motale was also accompanied by bodyguards. Tyrone Seale, a spokesperson for the deputy president, and Steyn Speed, an adviser to Ramaphosa, were also present.
Advocate Joe Nalane, on behalf of Ramaphosa, argued the deputy president was sent a battery of questions on Thursday night and given until Friday afternoon to respond. Iqbal Survé, owner of Independent News and Media, to whom the Sunday Independent belongs, gave Ramaphosa an undertaking that the story would not be published. However, he was notified on Saturday afternoon that Motale was planning to publish the details of the alleged affairs.
Advocate David Unterhalter for the Sunday Independent, instructed by well-known media lawyer Dario Milo of Webber Wentzel, told Vally "the horse has bolted" because Motale's detailed questions had been widely circulated on social media since Friday evening. He also revealed that at least one of the women mentioned in Motale's questions to Ramaphosa confirmed the existence of correspondence from the deputy president to her. She also confirmed the content.
The Sunday Independent is now expected to publish details of a number of emails purporting to reveal that Ramaphosa has been conducting extra marital affairs with a number of women. Details of these affairs are contained in emails from at least two Gmail accounts that are believed to belong to Ramaphosa. Nalane didn't advance any argument about the validity or otherwise of the emails.
In a statement released on Saturday Ramaphosa also did not explicitly deny the allegations contained in Motale's queries to him. He did however explain that some of the women named in Motale's email to him are beneficiaries of study bursaries from him and his wife.
Vally said Ramaphosa's arguments were too slim to force the court's hand. He told Nalane that Ramaphosa does not explain how he might get hurt should the emails be published and that the argument that he did not have enough time to draft a proper reply does not wash: he released two statements on the matter, one on Friday and a comprehensive release on Saturday.
Nalane did not expand on Ramaphosa's contention in Saturday's press release that state institutions like the intelligence agencies might be involved in fighting factional battles in the run-up to the African National Congress' (ANC) elective conference in December.
The revelations around Ramaphosa's personal life come days after former Minister Trevor Manuel and Deputy Minister Jabu Moleketi were asked to provide the Hawks with statements about activities of a now-disbanded enforcement unit at the South African Revenue Services. This is seen as the pretext to another attempt to prosecute former Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan, who is regarded as one of the foremost campaigners against state capture. Ramaphosa, a leading candidate to assume the ANC's leadership in December, has built his campaign on efforts against state capture and rent seeking.
Ramaphosa is due to address a campaign event on the West Rand on Sunday. His spokespeople have declined to comment.