Class action considered against municipality Print
News - Aktueel
Wednesday, 21 November 2012 07:34
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“If the Tshwane Metro Council does not retract the current rating of vacant stands, we will have no alternative but to go ahead with a class action against the municipality.”

So said the task team that was formed to direct the community’s future efforts to have the vacant land rates invalidated by the High Court.

In September we reported that Bronberg residents decided to close their wallets to the Tshwane municipal council’s vacant land rates. The decision was made when about 350 angry residents held an urgent public meeting after they received their municipal accounts reflecting the new rates and retrospective adjustments, backdated to 1 July last year.

On 24 and 25 October the municipality placed advertisements in local daily papers, announcing its intent to proceed with debt collection and credit control procedures against owners who do not pay the rates levied on their respective properties, or those who have not entered into an arrangement with the municipality to pay the arrears on their accounts.

Legal advice on these rates was obtained from Len Dekker and Associates. According to Gerhard Erasmus from Len Dekker and Associates the advertisements show that the municipality has not taken note of the fact that the rate payers, especially those in the rural area, cannot afford the vacant land rates levied on their properties.

He said that all written attempts by the various actions, councillors and associations, including meetings held with senior municipality officials, to address the problems created by the exorbitant rates on vacant land, have met with no success whatsoever.

However, people should not merely stop paying their rates. Land owners who have not yet declared a dispute with the municipality are encouraged to do so urgently, because the dispute is the foundation of any action that might be taken.

“The recommended way forward is still that vacant stand owners at least pay whatever they paid in the past plus 6%, until the dispute has been resolved with the municipality,” Gerhard said.

Clause four of the municipality’s Collection Policy: Arrear Debtor Accounts stipulates that should the amount levied on an account not be paid on the due date, a reminder should be hand delivered to the debtor’s physical address, clearly stating that a period of seven days is allowed for the payment or arrangement for payment before services will be cut off.

Seeing that the properties affected by this dispute is vacant, the municipality will not have the option to limit services to the properties, and will have to proceed to clause five of the Collection Policy where legal steps to collect arrears are stipulated.

Summons will be issued in the relevant court depending on the amount of the arrears: Below R100 000 at the Magistrate Court in the district where the property is situated or the owner stays; and above R100 000 at the Supreme Court (North Gauteng High Court).

Gerhard said that this matter can best be dealt with if the vacant land owners as a collective take on the municipality, and challenge the validity of the rates in court.

The forum that was created to deal with this matter and the management committee that was elected at the 10 September meeting at Laerskool Tygerpoort are busy establishing a vehicle to deal with the summonses issued.

Any summonses received should, as a matter of urgency, be forwarded to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to ensure that it is attended to until the legal entity that will be responsible to take the matter further is established by the management committee, and a proper administration process has been set up.

According to Gerhard, application can be made that summonses issued on behalf of the municipality in the Magistrates Court/High Court be combined and heard as one case, based on the fact that they are similar in nature and law, and have a wide impact on the larger community.

Application can also be made that all the cases be combined in the Northern Gauteng High Court, which will save money and time. If the matters are combined, an application can also be brought to stop the municipality issuing summonses on arrear vacant land rates, pending the outcome of one test case.

Gerhard said that if land owners do not work as a collective, then it will not be possible to oblige the municipality to comply with its constitutional obligations to residents.

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For more information, speak to André van der Walt, councillor, ward 101, at 083-462-5928 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting  or Lex Middelberg, councillor, ward 91, at 083-627-3713.