City’s bid to settle R10m lawsuit

Crime & Courts

Durban - An olive branch is being extended to Michael Sutcliffe by eThekwini city manager Sibusiso Sithole.

The ex-city manager is suing his successor for R10.5 million and Sithole wants to “mend the relationship”.

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Durban city manager S'bu Sithole (pictured) says: "It seems like [Mike] Sutcliffe and I are fighting. But I want us to move forward. I respect everything he has done for the city and his legacy needs to be protected.Durban 151211

Sutcliffe Farewell, Mike Sutcliffe

Pic Terry Haywood

If there is an out-of-court settlement, it is likely to be the ratepayers who will have to cough up.

Earlier this year, Sutcliffe filed the lawsuit against Sithole and the eThekwini municipality over what he said were false and disparaging reports made about him in relation to the Manase report into fraud and corruption in the municipality.

Sithole told the media that the city had resolved to pursue criminal charges against Sutcliffe and take legal action to recover R1.1m, which he claimed had been lost owing to Sutcliffe’s failure to report fraud.

Sutcliffe said in the summons that the Manase report had not found that he had in any way been responsible for the R1.1m loss or any other amount.

He also said that Sithole’s comments falsely implied that he was guilty of criminal conduct and was derelict in his duty as a city manager.

In response to the summons in October, Sithole said that Sutcliffe had “picked a fight with the wrong man” and that the matter would be defended by the city.

On Sunday, a more conciliatory Sithole said that he and the city had done nothing wrong, but he wanted the case to be settled.

“The issue is not about the case; we will defend ourselves. But we want to find a way to resolve it out of court. The mayor (James Nxumalo) is trying to get hold of Sutcliffe,” Sithole said.

He added that he wanted to end the feud with Sutcliffe.

“It seems like Sutcliffe and I are fighting. But I want us to move forward. I respect everything he has done for the city and his legacy needs to be protected,” he said.

Responding to Sithole’s comments, Sutcliffe said he had not been approached by anyone from the city to discuss a possible out-of-court settlement.

Asked if he would consider such a settlement, Sutcliffe said: “ We would obviously consider anything that addresses the very serious damage done to my reputation (and that of people close to me) and allows the truth to emerge.”

Sutcliffe said that the court processes that were under way should be properly followed.

“This matter should not be negotiated through the media,” he said.

The city had to file responding papers by Friday, but Sithole could not say on Sunday whether this had been done or not.

Sutcliffe’s attorney, Roger Knowles, said on Friday that if the papers were not filed by the deadline, he would file a notice of bar this week which could prevent the city and Sithole from filing a plea.

Tex Collins, the DA’s caucus leader in eThekwini, said it would be better for everyone if a settlement could be reached, but warned it would be a tough road for Sithole, as the city had set off a chain of events, starting with the decision not to release the Manase report. - The Mercury

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