Contractor nailed for defaming judge, mayor
A Port Elizabeth businessman who accused a high court judge of corruption, called mayor Athol Trollip a racist and accused city manager Johann Mettler of drunkenly penning a letter, has been found guilty of contempt of court.
Sipho Gcora – who has been battling the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality for almost a decade – has also been interdicted from defaming or making derogatory remarks about the municipality, its officials and legal representatives.
The saga between the municipality and Gcora and his wife, Khuselwa Goba-Gcora, who own Goba-Gcora Construction, dates back to when the company was employed as a subcontractor for WK Construction, which had been appointed by the metro to build RDP houses in KwaNobuhle.
Goba-Gcora Construction claimed later it had not been paid what it was owed.
But the municipality was absolved in a court judgment of any blame or any need to pay outstanding fees.
The municipality said in court papers at the time that all the money had been paid over to the main contractor.
Following this judgment, Gcora approached the office of then public protector Thuli Madonsela to intervene.
In January 2016, Madonsela’s office released a report titled Cost of Deviation, which ordered the municipality to take certain remedial steps in favour of Goba-Gcora Construction aimed at compensating the company for losses it had allegedly incurred.
The report also found the appointment of WK Construction unlawful.
Shortly after this report, Gcora launched the first of several court applications to force the municipality to implement the recommendations of the public protector.
At least four such applications were dismissed during the course of 2016.
Gcora’s review application and the application to compel were heard by Judge Jeremy Pickering in September 2017.
Pickering again dismissed the application and ruled that parts of the remedial action be set aside.
Last week, in the Port Elizabeth High Court, Judge Selby Mbenenge found that Gcora had been “displeased with the outcome of [these] cases”.
“Besides unsuccessfully seeking leave to appeal [against] the relevant judgments, [Gcora] resorted to penning a plethora of communications to wide-ranging recipients concerning judges of this division, especially Pickering J, the [municipality], certain of the [municipality’s] functionaries and other public officebearers,” Mbenenge said.
In just more than a threeweek period between December 23 and January 19, Gcora sent at least 17 e-mails personally attacking Trollip, Mettler and Pickering, among others.
In some of the e-mails sent to Trollip, Mettler, the public protector’s legal representatives and the municipality’s attorney of record, among others, Gcora wrote:
● “... racism especially with your [Trollip’s] arrival is terrible in PE”
● “I have been approached by business people in PE and they told me that they are shocked with your racist management style”
● “Spend another cent defending corruption at your peril. Your conduct is evil from any front, political, legal and morally. But let (sic) see how far you can stretch without sinking with this Titanic.”
● “All you are doing you are drinking expensive booze while ratepayers’ money is at risk, where is your conscience?”
And a minute after the above e-mail:
● “[City manager] has no right to take the [public protector] on review unless he was insane or drunk when he wrote the letter.”
A few days later, Gcora accused Pickering of misconduct.
“I have appeared before Pickering J [two] times before the review application, I could not gather that he is a racist
he wrote. “And my heart is sore about what he has done to his name.
“But surely someone did something that led him to misconducting himself.
“What did you do to this judge? Why are you corrupting the judges, Trollip and Mettler?”
In the same e-mail, Gcora accused the municipality and its officials of being “corrupt and dishonest” and littered with thieves and liars.
At one stage, Gcora sent three e-mails in one day addressed to the same parties as well as DA leader Mmusi Maimane and DA federal chair James Selfe, in which he accused Mettler of being incompetent and compromised, before lashing out at Pickering.
“The High Court set aside the findings of the Public Protector in paragraphs 8.2.1 and 8.3.1. This was interesting as these were not the only findings, was the judge drunk or what?” he said in one e-mail.
After the municipality took the matter to the Port Elizabeth High Court, seeking an order that Gcora was in contempt of court, Gcora submitted an additional affidavit in which he claimed that the comments he had made about the court, its judges and municipal officials were made “foolishly and without proper application of mind”.
He tendered an apology, adding that he had “acted out of frustration and pain”.
Mbenenge said: “He [Gcora] specifically apologises to Pickering J and claims to lack sufficient words to express his embarrassment towards the judge.
“[But] In the same affidavit, he seeks to justify his conduct in certain respects.”
Mbenenge found that although Gcora admitted that he had made the statements without reflection and expressed his regret, this did not, in the circumstances of the case, translate into an unequivocal admission of guilt on his part.
Gcora was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for five years, for contempt of court.
He has further been interdicted from making any defamatory remarks about the municipality, its officials and legal representatives.
Gcora’s counter-application was dismissed with costs and he was directed to pay the costs of the application.