Govt body to sue KZN wine estate

2011-10-11 00:00

GIJIMA KZN, a programme of the Economic Develoment and Tourism Department, has accused the Stables Wine Estate in Nottingham Road of failing to meet its obligations in terms of funding awarded to the estate and is to institute action for repayment of R3 420 000.

The department has obtained an interim interdict in the Pietermaritzburg high court against the wine estate in terms of which Gijima has 15 days to institute action against the estate for repayment of the funds.

The sheriff has been meanwhile authorised to take possession of the wine estate’s moveable property, assets and effects and hold them as security for the debt.

The return date for the case is November 23.

In her affidavit, the HOD and accounting officer for Gijima KZN, Carol Coetzee, explained that Gijima is a support programme of the department financed by the European Union. The funding is intended to uplift the social and economic development of local communities.

Gijima entered into a contract with Stables Wine Estate on December 9, 2007, but alleges that the estate failed in numerous ways to meet its obligations under the contract, which was terminated on November 8, last year.

On September 20, this year, Gijima instructed PriceWaterhouseCoopers Advisory Services to assist with a forensic investigation of the estate.

According to court papers, an interim report provided on September 27 indicates that the owners of Stables, Ralph “Tiny” van Niekerk and Judy van Niekerk, plan on leaving the country; that the Stables property was put up for sale; that Judy van Niekerk did not want the “for sale” sign on the property; that the winery equipment and vats were being sold, but Tiny van Niekerk advised that these were not paid for by Gijima’s funds; and that an estate agent found a buyer who offered R2,2 million for the property and equipment, but the sale was subsequently cancelled.

There was no evidence that a trust was formed in compliance with the awarding of the grant.

Coetzee alleges that there is evidence to suggest that the estate has been put up for sale together with items funded by Gijima.

There was also a possiblity that if Tiny van Niekerk leaves the country he may not return and Gijima may have an “empty judgment”, she submitted.

It was submitted that the potential prejudice to Gijima outweighs any prejudice to the wine estate if the court order were not granted.

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