Piketberg farmers must pay rates, court rules

2012-10-01 18:32

Bloemfontein - Farm owners in the Bergrivier municipal area, who have refused to pay their municipal taxes since 2001, were ordered to pay on Monday.

The Supreme Court of Appeal instructed 87 farm owners to settle the amounts they owed the municipality.

They were also ordered to pay all costs the municipality had incurred taking legal action to recover the arrears.

Rates were imposed on rural land in South Africa for the first time in 1993 under the Local Government Transition Act.

The act brought all land in the country under the jurisdiction of municipal councils.

The Bergrivier municipality started to impose levies and rates on all land owners in the 2001/2002 financial year and subsequent years.

The group of farm owners refused to pay on the basis that the rates claimed were not in compliance with the Transition Act.

The complaints were all of a technical nature.

Over the years, the Transition Act, which allowed levying of rates, was replaced by four laws which now regulate local government.

The farm owners argued that once the Local Government: Municipal Property Rates Act came into operation in 2005, the rating provision of the Transition Act ceased to apply.

However, the SCA held that the transitional provisions in the rates act, and in the Local Government: Municipal Finance Act had, since 2004, kept alive the provision of the Transition Act enabling the levying of rates until 2011.

The court found that the municipality had acted in terms of this provision and had complied with the procedures laid down in the finance act in the years after 2005.

The farm owners' complaints about requirements of the rates act not being met and about minor flaws in the publication of rates resolutions and draft budgets were held to be unfounded by the SCA.

The court dismissed an appeal by the farm owners, but upheld a cross appeal by the municipality.

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