Former Community Safety MEC and ex-provincial police commissioner Lennit Max says he is suing a local tabloid newspaper after his claim against a former police clerk of extortion (blackmail) was dismissed on Wednesday.
Belinda Petersen, whom Max legally assisted in an SAPS disciplinary hearing in 2007, was found not guilty in the Cape Town Regional Court after Max had levelled extortion charges against her.
Her acquittal brought to an end a protracted trial before magistrate Michelle Adams. The allegations that Max had conducted an extramarital affair with Petersen first surfaced on the front pages of Die Son in February last year.
Earlier, his former spokesman Julian Jansen claimed Max had made sexual advances towards two female staffers in his office.
Max denied all three claims, and instituted legal action against Petersen after asking Premier Helen Zille for time off from his job.
The claims against Max also prompted the provincial government to reinstate a policy against sexual harassment.
In September last year, Max was given the boot by Zille after a caucus bosberaad in Piketberg, ostensibly for failing to submit plans for his department’s strategic objectives.
He has since joined the DA’s parliamentary caucus, where he is a backbencher.
In the trial, Petersen alleged that Max had suggested “payment in kind” for his services as her advocate in a police disciplinary inquiry.
In the course of the hearing, Petersen alleged that she had had three sexual liaisons with Max, as “payment in kind” for his legal services.
One, she alleged, was in Max’s home during the day, when his wife was away, first on the marital bed and then, the same day, in Max’s son’s bedroom. The second was in a hotel room, and the fourth a late-afternoon meeting in Max’s office. Although Max denied the allegations, Adams said it was not necessary, for the purposes of the judgment, for her to rule on their veracity.
Max had represented Petersen at a police disciplinary inquiry, but had withdrawn as her advocate before the inquiry had finalised. The inquiry ended with Petersen’s dismissal from the police service, as a result of which Max, at the time the Community Safety MEC, promised to look out for a job for her in his department.
When the promise failed to materialise, Petersen said she would “take action” and that “he would hear from her again”.
Adams said Max had been vague on crucial aspects of the case.
He did not make a good impression on the court, and had gone out of his way to portray Petersen in a negative light, Adams said.
Of Petersen, the magistrate said: “She is no angel, and could turn on the charm as and when necessary.”
Petersen had told the court of a closed-circuit TV system that was hidden in a cupboard in Max’s son’s bedroom. She alleged that Max had opened the cupboard and switched the TV on, so as to monitor movements outside while they had sex in the son’s bedroom.
Called about the judgment, Max said he was disappointed but insisted he would continue his defamation claim against Die Son.
“The transcript of her interview with Die Son in which she stated that she smeared me because I didn’t give her a job proves her intent,” said Max. - Cape Times