Sued for a debt repaid in 2005

2009-05-03 00:00

CITY resident Mike Loukides is in two minds about a forthcoming court case — on the one hand he wishes it would disappear; on the other, he is determined to have his day in court.

At issue is an electricity bill of about R13 000 that dates back to 2002 when he owned and operated Matcan, a small business that specialised in the repair and maintenance of small plant belonging to the Msunduzi Municipality.

This once-thriving business collapsed because, Loukides alleges, he refused to pay bribes to Msunduzi officials.

Loukides said that as an employee in the municipal workshops for 14 years, he enjoyed a sound relationship with former colleagues.

He was in fact encouraged to set out on his own by the previous workshop management in 1995, which favoured an outsourcing scheme in view of declining mechanical and maintenance skills.

The arrangement worked well for about five years. Things changed when a new dispensation took charge during the early 2000s.

This was when the bribery allegedly started, and so persistent were the demands that Loukides sought help from the police and even the Scorpions.

Neither was particularly helpful, leaving Loukides little option but to shut down a rapidly declining business, and leave behind a R13 000 electricity debt.

The irony is that before the unbearable pressure for hand-outs, Loukides was negotiating with his landlord to buy the premises in King Street.

However, once the deal went belly-up, he undertook to repay the electricity debt.

Despite finding the going tough over the next few years, Loukides remained committed to sorting out the debt.

At the same time, he pursued efforts to expose the alleged bribery and corruption in Msunduzi Municipality and he was extensively interviewed by auditors who were conducting a high-profile forensic audit on the municipality.

Then, in 2007, Loukides was summoned to court over the debt. He approached Legal Aid, who assisted him with the necessary documentation.

Recently, he discovered that the affected property was actually sold in 2005 and on investigation found that the electricity debt had been settled, either by the seller or the buyer.

“For a rates clearance certificate to be issued, all debts associated with the property have to be paid,” he said.

The mystery deepens and having interviewed Loukides on several occasions, I quite understand why he feels victimised.

Loukides’s saga is clearly a deeply complex matter informed by several factors, but two key questions remain: why is Loukides being sued by the Msunsduzi Municipality for a debt that was redeemed four years ago, and whatever happened to the forensic audit into the municipality and its findings?

Raucous lunch

THE most recent Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) luncheon was a raucous affair, in no small measure due to Bridget Jones of Pronel, who stood in for CEO Andrew Layman.

Never demure, especially behind a lectern, Jones rose to the occasion splendidly, if raucously.

Social responsibility

THE PCB is hosting an expo and seminar devoted to corporate social investment on Wednesday at Chamber House.

Sponsored by Valverite, the objective is to provide an opportunity for NGOs to showcase their community projects, and for companies to see what is available for their corporate social investment support.

Presentations will be done every half-hour in the boardroom. There is no charge for attendance, and representatives of businesses are welcome to attend at any time during the day from 10 am.

Life is …

A SNIPPET on the brochure handed to guests at the Hospice function (see below):

Leaving the house in the morning, dressed for work in clothes you bought on credit, driving in traffic in a car you are still paying for in order to get to the job that you hate but so badly need, so that you can pay for the clothes and the car and the house that you leave empty the whole day, in order to live in it.

Unchain the dogs

a visit to Hospice by Derek Watts of Carte Blanche was more than propitious. With election memories fading as fast as the posters on the lamp posts, it’s time to remind politicians that the party is over, and that there are promises to be delivered on.

Expectations of wholesale improvements are naïve though, which is more the reason for unrelenting vigilance by a brave few.

While an exposé of dastardly deeds in the corridors of power may make for entertaining TV, there is no glamour in having to swim with the bottom-feeders to get the story.

Speaking engagingly of life behind the cameras, Watts gave his audience a delightful insight into what makes Carte Blance tick.

Here, then, to the continued existence of Carte Blanche and those media that are not scared to confront what is wrong, cruel, or criminal.

Signing off

ALL things end, and after almost 300 columns over the past five years, today’s edition is the last.

I owe a debt of gratitude to readers, friends and those many anonymous people who felt compelled to share information and confidences, often at risk to themselves.

A special thank-you to all those officials, politicians, ministers, skelms and skebengas who so kindly provided much of the material and inspiration for the column. We couldn’t have done it without you.

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