Municipality sues Trust for R22m in unpaid rates

2015-07-29 19:03

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Durban - In an attempt to call the Ingonyama Trust to heel, the Mandeni Municipality turned to the KwaZulu-Natal High Court in Pietermaritzburg to recover more than R22m in unpaid rates.

On Monday, the municipality reportedly launched an urgent application to try and force the Trust, which was established in 1994, to pay the outstanding amount plus interest. The application was adjourned until August 13.

The Trust filed an intention to defend the action.

Mandeni Municipal Manager Lulamilo Maphaloba said in 2011 that the municipality began billing its customers according to the Municipal Property Rates Act of 2004.

"During the process of implementing the act, we asked for public participation so that residents and clients could object to the results of the valuation roll. Another reason we wanted public participation was because the roll tells us how much the property is worth, and we use that to charge clients.

"According to our valuation roll, Ingonyama Trust was the owner 117 496 hectares of land in and around Mandeni. When the public participation processes came, Ingonyama Trust was one of the clients who did not participate or make comments," said Maphaloba.

He said the land was in a rural area and was being occupied by many communities.

"The land is called the Land of the Chiefs. It is run by many chiefs, including Chief Mathonsi and Chief Mhlongo, to name a few. It’s the land connecting Nyoni, Macambini and many other rural areas on the North Coast."

He said that over the years, the municipality continued to bill the Trust, but they allegedly never paid for 117 496 hectares in and around Mandeni.

The Trust owns about 2.8 million hectares of land across KZN.

'Credit control processes'

"They did not pay and we followed credit control processes like we do with everyone else. This included issuing a letter of demand, issuing a final letter, sending a sheriff [of the court] and then getting lawyers involved."

He explained that at some point, a moratorium was put in place and a decision was taken to engage in an inter-governmental relations strategy.

"We decided to abandon the court processes and engage directly with the Trust. We met with the CEO and we asked him what the problem was. They chose to be aloof and they sent us from pillar to post.

"It’s now 2015. We didn’t want to send letters again, so we engaged lawyers and took the matter to court in May. They owe us more than R22m in unpaid rates," said Maphaloba.

Judge Jerome Ngwenya said the Ingonyama Trust is not sure how the matter ended up in court. "We do not know what happened. We came to know of the matter when their lawyers wrote to us informing us that we owed more than R22m in unpaid rates.

"We responded saying that we did not owe them that amount, and that if they took the matter up to court, we would contest the matter. On June 8 we received summons and the matter is now in court, and we don’t know what the outcome will be or where the matter will end up,” said Ngwenya.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  government spending

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