Port Elizabeth - DA Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral candidate Athol Trollip on Tuesday was issued with lawyers' letters by the metro’s current security head, Linda Mti, warning him to stop making "insulting remarks" or face court action.
“We are, in the circumstances, instructed to demand from you … that you provide us with your written undertaking that you will cease and desist from making disparaging remarks regarding our client,” read one of two letters send from James Ndebele from Ndebele Attorneys on behalf of Mti.
“Should you fail to comply with the above…our client will not hesitate to take the appropriate legal action against you.”
During his time as the Democratic Alliance’s Eastern Cape leader, Trollip repeatedly spoke out against Mti’s appointment to the metro - which occurred at the end of April this year.
In May, Trollip labelled him as a “convicted drunk driving criminal and alleged billion rand fraudster" in relation to 1992 and 2009 drunk driving convictions against Mti, as well as his possibly being the subject of a National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) investigation in connection with alleged tender fraud, worth approximately R1bn, while he was a commissioner with correctional services.
At the end of July, the Democratic Alliance opened three cases of fraud and two of corruption against Mti in relation to a Special Investigations Unit report on the matter.
“The investigation into Linda Mti’s involvement in a multi-billion rand fraud and corruption scandal has gone on for almost 10 years; this is a clear-cut case, charges must be laid and prosecution must commence immediately,'' Trollip said in a statement at the time.
According to the stipulation of the letters now issued on Tuesday, Trollip is given 48 hours to express, in writing, his compliance not to insult Mti further.
Possible court action mentioned by the attorney includes an application to the high court for interdictory relief or action proceedings to recover damages suffered by Mti.
If the situation exacerbates to the courts, costs will be sought against Trollip, the letters threaten.
“Your conduct, remarks and allegations are…wrongful and defamatory of our client.
“As a result of your conduct, our client has, and continues to suffer considerable damage to his dignity and reputation.”
Trollip is further criticised in the letters as being a public figure which “imposes on you an additional duty to speak carefully”.
The letters also reiterate that Mti “absolutely rejects and disputes having conducted himself in any blameworthy manner”.
Mti will, the letters state, “have no difficulty in defending and refuting any allegations should they ever come before a Court”.
The DA first objected to Mti’s appointment to his position with the Nelson Mandela Bay metro when it accused former World Cup local organising committee colleague and metro Mayor Danny Jordaan of sneaking him in. Mti previously served as head of security for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.
The DA argued Mti was not suitable for his position due to the two drunk driving convictions, and the SIU report.
At the time, the DA said the authorities' feedback on whether Mti was being investigated or not in connection to the report was muddled – and that was why it laid the corruption charges against Mti in July.
National Director of Public Prosecutions Shaun Abrahams had apparently previously said a case docket based on the SIU report was opened in February 2010. That investigation had not been finalised, the docket was not given to the NPA yet, and a decision on prosecution had not been taken.
'Irregularities' with appointment
According to the DA, the corruption charges, in terms of the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act, were for allegedly accepting a multi-million rand house in Midrand, having architect's fees paid for, and getting a VW Touareg in exchange for influencing the awarding of the tenders.
The political party also alleged that there were irregularities with regards to Mti’s appointment to the metro - a claim denied by the NMB spokesperson at the time, Kupido Baron.
However, the lawyer’s letters sent on Tuesday, affirm that the SIU is not a court of law and as such its report cannot be considered a judgment.
“However, you have not given our client the benefit of answering these allegations in a court and instead, you have charged, prosecuted, and convicted our client in the court of public opinion…
“You have brazenly and recklessly undermined the fundamental constitutional and democratic principle that all persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” read the Ndebele Attorney letters, branded with peach-shaded swirls.
Trollip and the DA’s allegations against Mti are described in the lawyer’s letters as “not only trumped up but defamatory, malicious, vexatious and without any merit and/or foundation.”
Following last week’s local government elections, the DA won control of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro - previously led by the ANC. However, the council remains hung as no party garnered 50% or more. Trollip is expected to engage in coalition talks with smaller parties in order to be able to take over the mayorship.
Approached for comment about the lawyer's letters sent on behalf of Mti, Trollip told News24: “That correspondence will be responded to by our attorneys”.