Zille to defend R2m defamation lawsuit

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Copy of ca p1 Zille option DONE INLSA Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. File photo: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - DA leader Helen Zille is set to appear in the Cape Town High Court next week to defend a R2 million defamation suit against her and the party for saying two Gauteng whistle-blowers were corrupt.

Zille’s court case comes just a week after she declared victory in a defamation case against the ANC Youth League, its expelled president Julius Malema and its suspended spokesman, Floyd Shivambu, for calling her a “racist girl” and her all-male provincial cabinet her “boyfriends and concubines”.

Zille, however, now stands accused of defamation herself.

In November 2011, Zille allegedly published in a weekly online newsletter that Freedom Front Plus councillor Corrie Pypers and former DA councillor Kobus Hoffman had an axe to grind and had “developed a taste for abusing public money”.

“If anybody in Midvaal is corrupt, it is the two of them,” Zille allegedly said on the website.

Hoffman and Pypers were fired after bringing maladministration and corruption allegations to their superiors’ attention while working in the Midvaal Local Municipality.

The allegations led to Public Protector Thuli Madonsela probing the DA-led municipality and finding large-scale maladministration.

Zille allegedly stated that external auditors contracted by the council found that Pypers was using his gardener to front a fictitious BEE company in the hope of winning municipal tenders. She allegedly said Pypers was colluding with other vendors to fix quote prices so that they would have a better chance of winning tenders.

One of the companies that Pypers appeared to collude with was fired by the council for botching an R8m sewerage repair contract which Pypers acted as a site manager for. She also mentioned Hoffman floor-crossing from the Freedom Front Plus to the ANC.

But Hoffman and Pypers argue that the words, in the context of the article, are “wrongful and defamatory in that they were intended and were understood by readers of the article on the web page that the plaintiffs are dishonest in that Pypers and Hoffman were corrupt”, state the court papers.

The DA has denied the allegations, saying that the statements were in essence true and that the publication of the statements was in the public interest.

The comments were fair in the circumstances and the facts on which the comments were based were true, it stated.

The defamation suit comes as it emerged that more than two years after Madonsela released her report into the municipality, she has still failed to follow up on the crucial recommendations and not corrected her mistakes.

Madonsela found that for 29 years the municipality had given the contract for legal services to a firm owned by André Odendaal, the DA Midvaal constituency chairman, without following proper procedures.

Odendaal’s company had benefited from the purchase and sale of land that had been “donated” to the municipality in settlement of an outstanding account. Odendaal’s company paid R10 000 for the land, which was valued at R118 000, and subsequently sold it at a significantly higher price.

In her report Madonsela said Odendaal had to be dealt with after he told the law society that there was no merit to the complaints made by Hoffman and Pypers.

Madonsela was to forward her report to the Law Society of the Northern Provinces for it to investigate Odendaal.

But in 2012, when Madonsela’s former deputy, Mamiki Shai, claimed that Madonsela changed findings in the report she authored about the Midvaal municipality, it emerged that Madonsela had failed to forward the report.

Now, 16 months later, Madonsela has still not forwarded the report.

The public protector did not respond to media queries at the time of publication.

The Law Society of the Northern Provinces, in a written response, told The Sunday Independent that it had not received any communication from Madonsela’s office.

After considering the matter before the investigating committee, the society decided to postpone the matter because there were criminal and civil proceedings between the two parties.

Odendaal could not be reached for comment.

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Sunday Independent


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