Professor Roy Marcus, former chairperson of the university’s council, and Jaco van Schoor, who was deputy vice-chancellor of finance, brought top lawyer Wim Trengove SC to argue their appeal application at the South Gauteng High Court on Wednesday.
Trengove sought to convince Acting Judge André Gautschi that the court erred when it granted the summary judgment against his clients on July 31 last year.
The judgment, which ordered Marcus and Van Schoor to pay UJ R14m they allegedly stole, was granted without hearing defence of the pair.
They had not filed opposing papers when the matter went before the court, neither did they send a defence counsel.
Trengove told the court on Wednesday that the opposing affidavits were not filed due to a mistake by an attorney.
The attorney, Gregg Hammond, misled Marcus and Van Schoor as he believed parties were still due to meet and arrange a date for hearing the matter.
In his affidavit, Marcus said their absence from court proceeding was not out of recklessness.
He said they took Hammond’s advice much to their detriment.
UJ should have known there was a misunderstanding between instructing attorneys before moving for a summary judgment, argued Trengove.
Trengove also challenged UJ’s evidence that Marcus and Van Schoor defrauded the institution by facilitating payments to companies linked to them under false pretences that the companies had done some work or supplied goods for the project.
UJ alleged that Marcus and Van Schoor abused their executive positions to channel money to companies linked to them.
They allegedly supplied fraudulent invoices for work that was never done.
Trengove said there was ample evidence that services were rendered, as per contracts that were legally entered into.
He said UJ’s former vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg was kept fully informed about contracts and payments.
Trengove questioned how his clients could get paid about R40m over three years while not offering any service in return.
“There must be a story behind it if that’s true. Why do we not get that story?” Paul McNally SC, for UJ, argued for dismissal of the pair’s application with costs.
He said there was not a convincing explanation for how Hammond made the mistake that saw Marcus and Van Schoor missing in action.
“We say the explanation given is not an explanation. There’s simply no attempt to explain how the attorney got to this,” McNally said.
“He doesn’t explain how he could have arrived at this error ... You have before you a poor explanation of the default.”
Marcus and Van Schoor also failed to prove to the court that they rendered services to UJ, McNally said.
Their evidence give “an iota of evidence of what these services might have been”, he said.
“Our submission is that we have a compelling case that rescission must not be granted,” McNally said.
Judge Gautschi reserved judgment.@BonganiNkosi87