Chicken producer Daybreak Farms has lodged a R1m defamation suit against its suspended CEO Boas Seruwe and five top staff members for allegedly making ‘false’ and ‘unlawful’ statements against it and its board.

A Fin24 report says four members of the company's board have joined the action as plaintiffs, including its chairperson Lerato Nage.

But one of the defendants said the summons is nothing but an attempt to silence legitimate criticism of the board.

‘The board did not want Daybreak management to report on their corrupt methods. They have been inflating costs,’ said the defendant.

The report says Daybreak Farms – wholly owned by the Public Investment Corporation – suspended Seruwe in late January and launched a forensic probe into alleged maladministration under his watch.

Seruwe has said he did nothing wrong and referred to charges he is facing as ‘baseless (with) no merit whatsoever’.

His suspension came just three days after he co-signed a nine-page letter to the PIC, complaining that the group's new board was a ‘huge threat to the governance of Daybreak’.

At the time of his suspension, Daybreak told Fin24 that the decision to suspend Seruwe was taken, ‘after careful and considered thought’, and was, ‘in the best interest of the company while the matter is under investigation’.

The forensic probe into Seuwe has been completed, according to a Daybreak spokesperson.

It is being studied by the PIC.

In its summons against Seruwe and five others lodged in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg), Daybreak argued that the letter of complaint sent to the PIC depicted Daybreak's directors as people with ‘low morals’ who were corrupt, vindictive and ‘unprofessional’.

Daybreak Farms and the four named board members allege they suffered, ‘substantial and potentially irreparable damage to their respective reputations both in their personal and professional capacity’.

Full Fin24 report