Residents win court battle with Msunduzi over state of their road

2017-12-12 13:45
Local resident Bryce Venter stands on a muddy section of Parker Road that led to Judge Rishi Seegobin issuing a stern warning to officials representing state departments.

Local resident Bryce Venter stands on a muddy section of Parker Road that led to Judge Rishi Seegobin issuing a stern warning to officials representing state departments. (Ian Carbutt )

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A Pietermaritzburg high court judge has lambasted the way litigation is conducted on behalf of Msunduzi Municipality and government departments in general.

Judge Rishi Seegobin was commenting in a reserved judgment handed down in connection with a dispute over a road.

The judge found that Parker Road, which connects Chase Valley and Otto’s Bluff Roads to each other, is a public road which Msunduzi is liable to maintain.

He also found the municipality had in fact damaged the road during March 2012 by grading it.

Residents said this left in a “total mess” resulting in several motorists getting stuck.

The judge awarded costs in favour of local resident Andre Anton Venter, who brought the application.

He said that the municipality tendered no evidence to rebut the evidence given by Venter and others that the public had acquired the right to use the road.

Seegobin said that while there are many matters that should be defended, there are an equal number that are “clearly indefensible from the outset”.

“In such circumstances it is important for those who represent government to resolve these at an early stage so as to avoid the occurrence of any unnecessary and wasteful expenditure insofar as legal costs are concerned.”

He added it was the lack of preparation and inefficiency on the part of such legal representatives which was worrisome.

“On a weekly basis the experience in this division is that many matters cannot proceed simply because government departments are inadequately prepared.

“Matters then have to be postponed, at the expense of taxpayers.”

Seegobin criticised the municipality in its handling of this matter.

“The manner in which the municipality and its legal representatives went about litigating in this matter, at the expense of the ratepayers, leaves much to be desired.

“Officials of state departments and legal practitioners are cautioned that courts are growing increasingly tired of inefficiency that undermines the administration of justice and results in the unnecessary incurrence of legal costs.

“People who conduct themselves in this manner will in future run the risk of paying legal costs from their own pockets.”

He directed the registrar to send his judgment to the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the office of the State Attorney and Msunduzi’s municipal manager.

In finding it was a public road, the judge said the municipality has not passed any by-law prohibiting the use of the road by the public and a number and businesses used it including the business Stargazers, an adult entertainment venue.

“After all, the municipality has a town planning department which could have produced documentation and evidence to shed light on the history of Parker Road. It failed to produce such evidence.

“It also failed to produce the street numbering plan which … ought to exist and which evidence the municipality failed to rebut.”

He was satisfied that the road was in fact a public road, used by the public for a continuous and uninterrupted period of years.

Venter (67), a pensioner, said the case took five years to reach finality.

He had to take out loans to pay for legal costs.

“I was fed up with the bully-bully attitude of the municipality. They showed total disrespect for ratepayers.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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