Johannesburg - A R15m defamation lawsuit against Department
of Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies, filed by a lawyer accused of
hijacking a Joburg company, will be reheard after the North Gauteng High Court
in Pretoria rescinded an earlier judgment.
Attorney Matane Mphahlele claimed an official in Davies'
department, through the former Companies and Intellectual Property Registration
Office (Cipro, now the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission), defamed
him by saying he was a fraudster.
Mphahlele succeeded in his initial unopposed court
application in April. But in June, Davies launched an urgent application to set
aside Mphahlele's victory.
Judge Brian Southwood ruled in Davies’ favour last month,
rescinding and setting aside what would have been one of South Africa's biggest
defamation damages awards.
The matter will now be heard in February after Southwood
gave the minister until September 8 to file his notice to defend the matter.
According to court papers, the battle between Mphahlele and
Davies started when department official Louise Kritzinger told Brooks and
Brand, the law firm representing Joburg-based Tension Overhead Electrification,
that “all fraudulent information was removed” from the Cipro database.
Kritzinger was referring to Tension Overhead’s successful
application to remove Mphahlele, Kentse Makgae, Mpini Khumalo, Osvaldo
Brachini,Thomas Mphahlele and company secretary CFP Management Services from
its list of directors in June last year.
Tension Overhead interdicted and restrained them from being
the firm’s directors and secretary.
Mphahlele said the department and Cipro meant that he misled
Cipro by saying he was a Tension Overhead director and that he was corrupt,
untrustworthy, a fraudster, was not a law-abiding citizen, a coward and without
any moral fibre.
City Press has established that Mphahlele’s company, Africa
Heritage Investments (AHI), was Tension Overhead’s BEE partner.
However, Tension Overhead disputed this in court, saying
Mphahlele sold his stake in AHI, which is now in liquidation and owed Investec
millions of rand.
Mphahlele said he had been awarded a default judgment and
received a warrant of execution against Davies.
He complained that Southwood had unprocedurally gone out of
his way to inform Davies and Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan of his “victory”,
which alerted Davies to apply for the matter to be rescinded.
In his judgment, Southwood said it was “inappropriate to
deal with the matter on an unopposed basis”.
Company hijackings have rocked the country of late. In the
past year alone, 40 companies were hijacked on the Cipro database.
These were, among others, Deloitte Consulting, Fujitsu
Services, Coca-Cola Africa and Vaal Maseru Bus Services.
The only alleged company hijackers to face criminal charges
were late controversial businessman Sandile Majali, Stephan Khoza, Haralambos
Sferopoulous and Bongani Ndala.
They were charged with fraud for allegedly changing the
directorship of mining company Kalahari Resources and removing its directors,
siblings Brian Mashile and Daphne Mashile-Nkosi, from the Cipro database.
Davies’ spokesperson Sidwell Medupe did not respond to City