News24

Cooper faces R3m claim

2003-06-24 09:27

Durban - The University of Durban-Westville (UDW) and its vice chancellor, Dr Saths Cooper, as well as e.tv, are to be sued for R3m each for allegedly defaming the former head of UDW, Professor Rampule Ramashala.

The litigation arises from recent remarks by Cooper, including an interview with e.tv on May 28, when Cooper spoke about Ramashala's role in a R70m loan and investment deal made with Investec Bank when she was at the helm of UDW.

In previous interviews, Ramashala confirmed she had signed the R70m loan from Investec Bank and then placed R69.3m in an offshore account in 1998.

A R700 000 commission fee was reportedly paid before the money was deposited into the account.

While UDW has announced an investigation into the matter, saying the deal was made without UDW council's knowledge, on e.tv news Cooper implied that Ramashala personally benefited from the deal.

Cooper was sent a fax on June 6 by Ramashala's lawyers and asked to stop making further defamatory statements. They also demanded a retraction and public apology for stating that "he had no doubt" that Ramashala personally benefited.

The lawyers advised that if the demands were not met, Cooper would be sued for defamation in the amount of R3m. Cooper did not accede and on Monday Ramashala's attorney confirmed she is proceeding with the suit.

"The particulars of the claim are being drafted and will be served on UDW, Cooper and e.tv before Friday," said attorney Medi Mokuena.

Mokuena said that had the UDW council advised that they had warned Cooper against making further defamatory statements about Ramashala, the university would not be facing litigation.

"And to avoid this litigation, all Cooper needed to do was publicly apologise," said Mokuena. "His refusal could now cost the university R3m."

Last night Cooper said he is not concerned by the litigation as the facts of the Investec/UDW deal will now become public.

"I was asked by the media about a public institution and its affairs and I commented factually," Cooper said.

While copies of the letter demanding an apology were received by the UDW council more than a fortnight ago, UDW's head of Public Affairs, Professor Dasarath Chetty, as well as UDW's official spokesperson Nomavenda Matiane, both said on Friday that they were not aware of such a letter or of Ramashala's intention to sue the university.

Chair of UDW council Dr Magu Namane, head of human resources at the SABC, did not return calls to her to discuss the matter.

Mokuena said e.tv did not bother to get Ramashala's comment before screening the interview.

"They did not even indicate that she was unavailable for comment, but used a picture of her, suggestive that she was participating," said Mokuena.

A spokesperson for e.tv confirmed that they have been notified about Ramashala's intention to sue, but declined to comment further.