SABC's lawyers take fight to ex-boss

The SABC's chief audit executive escaped an attack on Friday.
The SABC's chief audit executive escaped an attack on Friday.
Image: Robert Tshabalala/Financial Mail

Werksmans Attorney's director and senior lawyer Sandile July has filed a R700,000 defamation lawsuit against former SABC head of legal Nompumelelo Phasha's lawyers over claims that he had connived with a CCMA commissioner to ensure that all disciplinary cases involving SABC employees lead to dismissals, among others.

These claims were made by Phasha in her recusal applications against commissioner Motlatsi Phala at the CCMA during her arbitration hearing dealing with a number of serious charges levelled against her by the SABC.

But Phasha's lawyers, Machaba Attorneys, who were listed as the first respondents in the defamation case, said the application was a delaying tactic by Werksmans and July to avoid paying R2.5m in legal costs awarded to their client Phasha.

The amount, according to the order, was to be paid by July and SABC executives CEO Madoda Mxakwe and head of legal Ntuthuzelo Vanara in their personal capacities after losing a leave to appeal application to challenge a judgment that reinstated Phasha to her job.

The legal bill, despite the judgment by the labour court and the SABC's failure to secure leave to appeal, had not been settled.

The two parties were still battling it out in court, this time at the Supreme Court of Appeal in Bloemfontein after the SABC filed a petition to appeal the labour court judgment.

In court papers filed at the Joburg high court last week, July and his law firm said during the litigation between the SABC and Phasha, Machaba Attorneys and Phasha made various defamatory statements with the intention to defame them and to injure their reputations. In the same papers, the law firm indicated that some of the statements were intended to mean that they were dishonest.

Among the statements July and Werksmans were not happy with included correspondence exchanged between Phasha and the law firm's chairperson in which she stated that they had failed to give sound and legal advice to the SABC.

The papers also indicate that Phasha had mentioned that commissioner Phala's invoices were married to Werksmans attorney's invoices.

"I have therefore formulated a reasonable apprehension of bias based on such acts and collusions between Mr Phala and Mr Sandile July," the papers quote Phasha to have said in her recusal application.

The law firm said the other inference that could be made from Phasha's statements was that there will be no impartiality on the part of commissioner Phala given his previous and current dealings with the SABC and the initiator, July.

The papers show that Phala recused himself from the matter without delivering a ruling on the recusal application.

"The content of Phasha's affidavit, made on the advice of her legal representatives, is false and defamatory of the plaintiffs in that it imputes, and was intended by the defendants to impute and was understood that the plaintiffs had acted unethically, dishonestly and had colluded with the CCMA and its commissioners to ensure Phasha's dismissals and those of other SABC employees," said Werksmans and July in their affidavit.

Phasha's lawyer Macgregor Kufa confirmed receipt of the summons by Werksmans and July but said it was just tactics to avoid paying the R2.5m legal costs owed to his client.

He said he was preparing a counterclaim against July for accusing his client of leaking internal SABC documents.

July could not be reached for comment as his phone rang unanswered and he did not respond to text messages sent.

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