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Durban - Former municipal manager Michael Sutcliffe will square off in court against his successor, S’bu Sithole, later this year in a defamation case which will see both men having to take the witness stand.
Their lawyers had tried to settle the matter – which arose from comments Sithole allegedly made about Sutcliffe at a press briefing on the Manase Report dealing with fraud and corruption in the eThekwini Municipality.
But the matter has now been set down on the civil trial roll of the Durban High Court for October.
Sutcliffe filed the lawsuit against Sithole and the municipality in 2012 claiming R10.5 million in damages.
Sithole was reported as saying the city would pursue criminal charges and legal action against Sutcliffe to recover R1m he said had been lost as a result of Sutcliffe’s failing to report fraud.
When contacted for comment on Sunday, Sithole said he was unaware of the forthcoming trial as he was not the one handling it.
“The legal team is working on this matter,” he said.
Sutcliffe confirmed that the municipality’s legal team had approached his lawyers in December with the intention of trying to settle the matter, to which his lawyer had responded.
“My lawyers also sent a follow-up e-mail to them in January because they had not responded to previous communi- cations. We have not heard from them since. All the attempts by my lawyers for mediation have not worked. We are now preparing for the trial,” he said.
In the court papers filed in May, Sutcliffe’s legal team said the report had not found him in any way responsible for losing R1.1m.
They further said the report had not recommended the recovery of the money from Sutcliffe and that there were no recommendations for criminal charges to be pursued against him.
As a result of the statements, Sutcliffe’s reputation had been damaged and he had suffered general damages of R2.5m, and R8m in special damages in the form of loss of income as he was unable to secure employment positions otherwise available to him.
In responding court papers, Sithole’s legal team said his actions were in the course of the performance of his duties.
They also said the council had made certain resolutions about what was going to be done arising out of the Manase report.
According to his legal team, Sithole’s statement was not wrong and he had had no intention to injure Sutcliffe.
They said the statements were substantially true and the publication was in the public interest.