The defamation case against a former DA activist who accused Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Athol Trollip of offering her a bribe resumed in the Port Elizabeth Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Nontuthuzelo Jack is facing a charge of crimen injuria after claiming Trollip offered her a bribe to “dig up dirt” on former DA provincial chairperson Veliswa Mvenya.
Her claims were published in the Daily Dispatch in the run-up to the municipal elections in 2016 and were also included in an affidavit she forwarded to DA federal executive chairperson James Selfe.
Jack alleged that Trollip had called her to a meeting at a police station in Motherwell on March 20, 2016.
Testifying on Tuesday morning, Selfe told the court that he had been tasked by the DA to investigate allegations of friction between Trollip and Mvenya and had been in Port Elizabeth on March 15, 2016, to conduct interviews with various members of the provincial DA leadership involved in drawing up candidate lists.
He said after returning to Cape Town he was made aware of the Daily Dispatch article and the allegations were added to the scope of his investigation.
Allegations ‘immensely damaging’
Selfe said he had then returned to Port Elizabeth and met with Jack and Mvenya on April 1 at a City Lodge.
Selfe said Jack’s initial statement had said the incident took place on Saturday the 20th when, in fact, the 20th was a Sunday. He said when he questioned her, Jack was adamant that it had taken place on a Sunday.
He said Jack alleged that Trollip had called her at 07:00 and again at 09:00 before meeting her in the parking area outside the police station.
She told him Trollip had been wearing a DA-branded jacket and T-shirt.
But cellphone records for Jack and Trollip, previously submitted to court as evidence, show she did not receive any calls from Trollip, nor had he made any calls at the time alleged.
Selfe said he had dismissed Jack’s claims as he knew Trollip had not even been in Port Elizabeth the weekend in question.
He said the allegation of bribery had been “immensely damaging” to Trollip.
Jack’s attorney, advocate Eric Skepe challenged Selfe about why he had not sought corroborating witnesses to Jack’s testimony and accused Selfe of dismissing the allegations to protect the DA’s reputation.
Selfe replied that he had been tasked to get to the truth and found Jack’s versions of events highly unlikely.
“If there was truth to the allegations, then the party would have acted,” he said. “It was a fabrication designed to do maximum political damage to Trollip.”
Trollip was out of town
Following Selfe’s testimony, Trollip’s wife Janine took to the stand.
She told the court that there was no way that Trollip could have bribed Jack as he had been in Port Alfred with her at the time.
Janine told the court they had travelled to Port Alfred for the weekend as her son was playing in the Pineapple Cricket Tournament, having left on Friday evening after work.
She said on the Sunday in question, they had gone to church in Port Alfred at 09:30 and that the pastor’s wife had taken a photo of her husband at the service. The photo was submitted as evidence.
Photos of Trollip at the cricket match the day before were also submitted.
“He was at my side the entire Saturday and Sunday,” she said.
Following Janine’s testimony, prosecutor Jomari Du Toit closed the State’s case.
Case plagued by delays
Skepe then told Magistrate Pumla Sibiya he intended to bring an application to recall Trollip to testify but would only do so after consulting with a witness who was currently in the Transkei. He then asked for the matter to be postponed to July.
Du Toit said she did not object to the postponement but highlighted the numerous delays in the case to date and said the State would oppose any further postponements.
In August last year Jack fired her attorney in the middle of court proceedings. The following month, her new defence attorney, Mark Jacobs, officially withdrew saying that Jack did not want to cooperate with him.
Prior to that Jack had failed to attend court on at least two occasions, having broken her leg.
Magistrate Sibiya then postponed the matter to July 12.