Tearful Trollip clears air after Troon apologises
Former Nelson Mandela Bay ANC councillor Lawrence Troon yesterday apologised to DA Mayor Athol Trollip and unconditionally withdrew defamatory allegations of racism, cruelty and exploitation he made against him.
Trollip immediately withdrew his R5-million defamation claim against Troon following the apology.
Both the public apology and the withdrawal of the claim were made an order of the Grahamstown High Court yesterday.
Trollip wept at a press conference afterwards, saying the untrue allegations that he was racist and had been cruel and exploitative to cherished farmworkers at his family’s former Mount Prospect Farm outside Bedford had hit him where it hurt most – his integrity and hard-earned reputation.
He spoke emotionally – and openly – about the pain caused to him and his family by the allegations.
He became distraught when he spoke of his former farm staff, most of whom he said had become valued friends.“I can take anything you throw at me in the hurly-burly of politics. I have handled more than most. But this hit where it hurt most.”
Clutching a well-thumbed old salary book dating back to the early 1980s, Trollip showed how every financial transaction with every staff member over decades had been recorded, including salaries, overtime pay, and the generous monthly provision of groceries to every family. It also records severance packages to every staff member when he sold his farm.
Each of them were given life usufruct rights to stay on the farm and most were employed by the new owner, he said.
Each staff member also received a provident fund payout, he claimed.
Trollip sued Troon for some R5-million after he and former renegade DA councillor Knight Mali, produced statements they claimed were from several men and women who had once worked on or near Trollip’s farm. Among other claims, the group said they had been exploited and treated badly by the Trollip family.
The allegations surfaced in 2015, more than a decade after Trollip sold the farm.
Trollip yesterday said the apology and withdrawal of the allegations was a long-overdue vindication of his assertion that it was a political smear campaign orchestrated to harm him politically as well as the DA’s 2016 electoral efforts.
He said the court order was an important precedent establishing that politicians could not besmirch their political opponents and maliciously defame them with impunity.
“I have no interest in being paid any money by Mr Troon.
“I have always only wanted my reputation and good name to be restored.”
The apology followed some hours of negotiations between Troon’s and Trollip’s lawyers. Troon was accompanied by NMB councillor Rory Riordan.
Last year, Troon vowed he would never apologise. He told the Dispatch that Trollip’s defamation suit had “unleashed a tiger he will have to ride. He will regret this for the rest of his life”.
Trollip is also suing Mali. His attorney Brin Brody confirmed no apology had been forthcoming from Mali.
“We will see him in court in August.”
Apart from the old salary book, Trollip’s senior counsel Izak Smuts arrived at court clutching reams of documentation to refute the allegations published by Mali and Troon.
An emotional Trollip said he and his wife Janine would head straight for Bedford from the Grahamstown High Court to “have tea with my community”.
Troon could not be reached for comment...