Legal witch-hunt costing millions: Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality

Roy Jankielsohn MPL

DA MPL in the Free State Provincial Legislature

Honourable Speaker, the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality failed to timeously take the necessary action to collect levies from businesses and farmers that were outstanding up to the end of June 2006. A law firm in Welkom, namely Podbielski and Mhlambi, were then appointed to issue about 13,000 summonses on outstanding amounts dating from between 2007 and 2008. The thumb suck amounts on the summonses, however, caused Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality’s legal actions to be futile from the onset. Amendments to the summonses were also rejected by the courts, including the Appeal Court.

The fact that the lawyers were only able to bring in less than R5 million while the legal costs of the municipality have so far exceeded R42 million proves that this is a futile exercise.

After losing all court cases in this regard, with punitive costs assigned against them, the municipality now want to take the matter on appeal. Podbielski and Mhlambi, refused to act further on behalf of the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality because of a dispute regarding fees owed to them. They subsequently withdrew as attorneys of record.

New legal representatives from Gauteng, Messrs Sunil Narian, have now been appointed. This implies that they will still have to contract additional lawyers in Bloemfontein to assist with the appeal. It is unknown what the final costs will be since all the work done thus far will have to be reviewed by the new legal team. If they only charge a nominal fee of R1000, amounting to less than a quarter of an attorneys hourly rate, their total fees could amount to over R13 million.

Rather than spending money on uplifting the communities in Thabo Mofutsanyana, the municipality is obsessed with throwing away money on legal fees in cases which, even if it won, would never bring in the levies required to cover a fraction of the legal costs.

Speaker, I cannot think of any other reason, besides a financial benefit, that could cause politicians to pursue cases that have the potential to eventually cost the municipality over R100 million in claims from the businesses and individuals who are currently the victims of this legal scam.

The Municipality has hinted that the provincial government, which does not even have enough money to fix our roads, would assist them financially. I am sure that this House will agree that it is time for the provincial government to intervene to stop this nonsense.