Spat between deputy mayor and top official heading for the high court
Nelson Mandela Bay deputy mayor Mongameli Bobani has been slapped with a half a million rand defamation lawsuit by corporate services acting head Vuyo Zitumane.
Bobani has nine days from today to inform the Port Elizabeth High Court if he plans to defend the case against him and a further 20 days to file his answering papers. Zitumane is suing Bobani over his alleged defamatory claims of corruption against her.
This is the latest development in the Bobani and Zitumane saga which comes after the deputy mayor failed to respond to Zitumane’s demand that he pay R500 000 in damages by Tuesday last week and promise not to make defamatory statements about her again.
Bobani, who yesterday morning denied any knowledge of a court summons, said he was preparing to sue Zitumane for her suggestion that he had made advances toward her.
“I have said I am not spending a cent for Vuyo Zitumane. In fact, I am suing her for saying I made advances on her.”
She said last week that she believed his attitude toward her was influenced, among other things, by her – a happily married woman – refusing to make herself available to him.
Bobani said he would defend the defamation suit should he receive the summons. The law firm representing Zitumane – Friedman Scheckter – said Bobani had, in fact, been served with the summons yesterday morning.
This follows months of tensions between the two which escalated to the point that Bobani opened four corruption cases with the police last week, claiming it implicated Zitumane and city manager Johann Mettler.
He has also frequently spoken out about his belief that the way Zitumane was hired was tantamount to corruption.
Zitumane’s court papers state that Bobani, in at least five instances, alleged she was corrupt. The papers refer to articles published in The Herald and Sunday Times as well as a meeting with mayor Athol Trollip and others when Bobani allegedly called Zitumane corrupt.
Zitumane states in court papers: “The statements made by [Bobani] are, in their ordinary meaning, defamatory, and alternatively and in any event, are intended to mean and were understood by persons hearing the statements, reading the publications and/or television viewers, that [Zitumane] is a dishonest, corrupt individual.
“The averments that [Zitumane] is corrupt are wrongful and defamatory of [Bobani] in that they were intended and indeed are understood by all persons to mean that [she] is a dishonest and corrupt individual and thus does not qualify for employment, either in the metro, or in any other government or quasi government organisation.
“As a result of the defamation, [Zitumane] has been damaged in her reputation and has suffered damages in the sum of R500 000, which amount is due and payable, but which amount [Bobani] refuses to pay”.
Zitumane also wants Bobani to pay her legal costs.