Judge rules city attorney stole electricity, let rooms illegally

2012-08-14 00:00

A HIGH court judge has ruled that Pietermaritzburg businessman and attorney Surendra Singh acted illegally by supplying Shepstone House with electricity sourced from a bulk meter situated in the adjacent Nedbank Building.

Judge Pete Koen further ruled in a reserved judgment that tenants renting rooms above the ground floor in Shepstone House did so unlawfully as Singh did not have a certificate of occupancy as required in terms of the Building Act. Judge Koen

He said Msunduzi Municipality specifically refused to issue Singh with a certificate on the basis that he had not complied with its requirements relating to fire prevention and control.

Municipal manager Mxolosi Nkosi alleged in an affidavit that the tenants’ lives were “at immediate risk” and they should be evacuated forthwith according to a report by fire prevention officer, Roger Trenam, who carried out an inspection at Shepstone House on May 4.

The judge ruled, however, that whether Singh had complied with the requirements in question, or not, did not have to be decided by the court in the present case.

Singh did not dispute that he didn’t have a certificate of occupancy, but maintained he had tried to no avail to obtain one from November 2010.

Koen said that if the certificate was wrongly withheld there were other remedies Singh could pursue.

The dispute between Singh and Msunduzi over electricity arose when Singh approached the high court on May 11 for an urgent order stopping municipal employees from “interfering” with electrical connections at Shepstone House.

Msunduzi responded with a counter-application accusing Singh of acting in bad faith and not disclosing a history of previous court orders against him dating as far back as 2002.

Nkosi said municipal meter readers reported in February that the meter room at Shepstone House was “inaccessible”.

After the electricity supply was disconnected, lights had been seen in the building and it was then suspected that electricity was being sourced illegally from elsewhere.

When a team visited the adjacent Nedbank building, also owned by Singh, to check it as a possible source, he alleged Singh had refused them entry.

Singh admitted in his affidavit that the electricity for Shepstone House was sourced from a bulk meter installed in the Nedbank building, but maintained his actions were legal.

He said he had installed the bulk meteron the advice of a senior municipal official while the municipality was under administration.

But Nkosi said this was not legal as there could only be one bulk meter per building unless the two properties were consolidated in the deeds registry.

Koen ruled in his judgment that Singh had not shown that he had any right to an electricity supply at Shepstone House, and it was unlawful to supply electricity to the building from Nedbank Building.

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