Former councillor being sued by mayor seeks postponement over witnesses
Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip, who is suing former ANC councillor Lawrence Troon for defamation, may have to wait another year before he gets his day in court. But Trollip said yesterday he was now more determined than ever to pursue the matter.
The case was due to start in the Grahamstown High Court yesterday but Troon sought a postponement, saying he needed more time as his witnesses were scattered in various towns.
Trollip’s lawyers agreed to it after Troon tendered to pay the wasted legal costs caused by the delay.
The costs, which included the cost of Trollip’s senior counsel, were likely to be in the region of R60 000, Trollip said.
The news comes as it emerged that Troon applied for Legal Aid representation, as he is unemployed, but he was turned down.
Troon said he hoped to cash in his legal insurance policy to continue with his defence and that there were also people of goodwill who had offered financial assistance.
Trollip is suing Troon for some R5-million after Troon and former DA councillor Knight Mali produced statements from several men and women who claimed they had once worked on or near Trollip’s former farm, Mount Prospect, outside Bedford.
Among other claims, the group said they had been treated badly by the Trollip family.
The allegations surfaced in 2015, more than a decade after Trollip sold the farm.
Trollip has vehemently denied the allegations and charged that Troon had deliberately set about defaming him and causing irreparable harm to his good name and reputation.
“In 22 years in public office, I have never litigated against anyone because I believe politicians should have a thick skin,” Trollip said yesterday.
“But the things they are saying are of such a derogatory and defamatory nature that I cannot allow them to go unchallenged.”
In an interview, Trollip said he had forgiven the eight people who had spoken out against him and his family as he believed they had been duped into saying what they had said.
Trollip is also suing Mali for R1-million after he made what Trollip said was a defamatory statement about him on social media last year – at the height of the local government elections campaigning in the metro.
Trollip said two media statements released by Mali over the past four days had resulted in him deciding to increase the R1-million damages claim against him.
Mali invited the media at the weekend to come to the high court where he said the farmworkers would testify against Trollip about “their alleged atrocious treatment and horrendous abuse” at his hands.
Troon, meanwhile, was adamant yesterday he would not back down.
“Athol Trollip does not have a thing against me and I will prove it. Why is he suing me, who doesn’t have money, and not the media? He is trying to shut me up,” Troon said.
“This postponement will have devastating consequences for him. We’ve got a stunning witness who is going to shock him.”
Trollip’s attorney, Brin Brody, said they would apply for a new court date for the Troon defamation case but it was unlikely the matter would now be heard within the next year.
“Mr Trollip remains determined to clear his name through the courts,” Brody said.
ANC stalwart and Bay councillor Rory Riordan and others were with Troon at the Grahamstown High Court yesterday.
– Additional reporting by Rochelle de Kock