Farmer fights for tender rights

2010-04-10 07:53

A BITTER dispute concerning a ­R33-million agrarian tender, between

a KwaZulu-Natal farmer and the Umzimvubu local municipality, is scheduled to be

heard in the ­Durban High Court this week.

Zovuyo Ngejane, who owns Mbali Rural Developers, has approached the

court to apply for an interdict preventing the municipality from awarding a

multimillion-rand maize-­production tender to another ­contractor, on the

grounds that the ­contract belongs to him.

The Umzimvubu municipality, situated near Eastern Cape’s border

with KwaZulu-Natal, will ­oppose Ngejane’s action when the two trade legal blows

in court on Friday.

Umzimvubu’s municipal manager, Tobela Nota, said: “We are unable to

comment on the matter in the media. We will wait for the court process to run

its course.”

In court papers in the possession of City Press Business, Ngejane

alleges that Umzimvubu breached a three-year contract the two parties had

entered into in October 2007, for maize to be planted on 1 000 hectares of land

in the area at a fee of R11 million a year.

The cash-strapped municipality trimmed the scope of the work in the

2007/08 fiscal year, the first year of the contract. This resulted in Ngejane

receiving R6 million instead of the contracted R11 million.

In the 2008/09 fiscal year Ngejane was paid R13.6 million for the

job done by his company, which specialises in mechanised farming.

The problem started last year when Umzimvubu – which consists of

the rural towns of Mount Ayliff and Mount Frere – delayed making a ­decision to

allocate the hectares Ngejane’s company needed to plant.

His numerous attempts to get the municipality, which provides

services to 198 550 residents, to implement the final year of the contract

failed.

One of those attempts was made on September 2, when Ngejane’s

­lawyers, GDLK Attorneys, wrote to Umzimvubu’s lawyers, Deneys ­Reitz,

requesting that the municipality follow through and honour the contract.

“It is absolutely necessary that a meeting takes place to discuss

the value of the contract for the 2009/10 year in order for our client (Ngejane)

to start with land preparation.

“If it is left too late the crops will fail and this will have

devastating effects for everyone involved,” Andre Kitching of GDLK wrote.

Instead, the municipality advertised the contract in Eastern Cape’s

daily newspaper, the Daily Dispatch, last November and invited new bids for

it.

It is this advert that set Ngejane – who invested R9 million on

tractors, trucks and other farm implements to fulfil the tender – and Umzimvubu

on a collision course. It is believed that the municipality is disputing the

existence of a three-year contract with Ngejane, and as far as it is concerned

it signed a ­renewable, one-year agreement.

In January Ngejane’s lawyers threatened to sue the municipality for

damages if it awarded the tender to another contractor.

This ­prompted Deneys Reitz to write back to GDLK in January, with

an undertaking that its client would not appoint a new contractor to plant maize

in ­areas under its ­jurisdiction.

“We are obtaining our client’s instructions on having your client’s

claim resolved via arbitration,” Deneys Reitz said.

In his affidavit, Ngejane says he remains “willing and able” to see

out the maize production contract he signed with Umzimvubu in 2007.

The project was part of the Massive Food Programme, which aims to

develop subsistence farmers and boost food production in poverty-hit Eastern

Cape villages.



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