Wraypex (developers of Blair Atholl Golf Estate near Lanseria Airport) is suing five members of the adjoining Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy (RNC) for R210 million for "damages" and defamation" after we'd consistently objected to irregularities in the development process.
I quote from a letter from the GDACE MEC, Mosunkutu, to Mervyn Gaylard, whose case comes up next week, in which the MEC admits to "construction-related activities" commencing "unlawfully" on Blair Atholl:
"...Dr Cornelius informed me that these allegations have been investigated and the the developer was in deed commencing with construction related activities unlawfully."
Wraypex has lined up individual court dates for four of us this year (10 days each): Lynne Clarke, Mervyn Gaylard, myself and Lise Essberger, all residents of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy. The case of the fifth person, Arthur Barnes, came up two years ago and was postponed. We have no return date for his case yet.
The first case was Lynne Clarke's - set for 10 February. A week or so before that she got a call from Connie Myburgh, Wraypex's lawyer (although he is not handling the actual case - Schwarz North is) proposing "a cup of tea" and suggesting that they drop the case against her - irregular, as the case is handled between the lawyers. Our lawyer, Adrian Vorster, contacted Schwarz North immediately and the outcome was that they've withdrawn the case against Lynne, with costs tendered to Adrian Vorster.
The gist of our complaint as whistleblowers (since 2004) was that Wraypex had ignored the required legal processes and commenced with construction activities on Blair Atholl before the necessary processes were in place (ie approval from GDACE, appointment of a consultant, public participation, etc). The essence of the Wraypex summons is that we caused "damage" by holding them up.
Four of us were sued AFTER the appeals were considered and Wraypex had received the go-ahead - when there was nothing more we could do to influence the process. This was clearly a vindictive SLAPP suit (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participants). Arthur Barnes was sued for "damages" and "defamation", during the appeal period.
I can supply a summary (backed by documents if necessary) of how the whole case unfolded. The internal GDACE documents from line officials stated that Blair Atholl should not be given approval.
During the appeal period in July 2005 we (the RNC) lodged an urgent interdict to stop construction. We lost this case with costs against us, becasue we as Interested & Affected Parties (I&APs) had not been notified by GDACE at that point that the HOD, Dr Cornelius, had backed down from the "No construction" clause, because of threats from Connie Myburgh, Wraypex's lawyer against the department and officials. (Letters available.)
We are still paying back tens of thousands of rands for this case.
During this period, Deneys Reitz, Barnes's lawyers, wanted to know from Barnes where Connie Myburgh got certain inside information about our moves. They also queried whether there was a leak in our Conservancy committee. During this time Barnes was phoned by the Muldersdrift Police to say that a tap had been found by Telkom technicians on his phone. The docket for the case that was opened then disappeared. We were advised to get extra cellphones for confidential calls.