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Court action dismissed

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Residents had chosen to apply for the interdict as a group, as a Kimberley ratepayers’ association did not exist.

UNITED: Residents during the protest march last week. Picture: Danie van der Lith

KIMBERLEY residents who are opposed to high electricity tariffs will bring another court application, after an urgent interdict to prevent Sol Plaatje Municipality from implementing price hikes was dismissed in the Northern Cape High Court.

The joint review application will be brought before the court by Kimberley residents and the Northern Cape Civics Organisation’s legal unit.

The matter was dismissed on Friday on a technicality, where the legal representative for Sol Plaatje Municipality, Frans Peterson, pointed out that the applicants in the matter – residents of Kimberley – did not have legal standing as they were not a registered legal entity.

He believed that there was no basis for the urgent application.

“Legal costs have been incurred through this application and because the Kimberley residents have no legal authority, their legal representative should be held responsible for the costs.”

Advocate Boitumelo Babuseng, appearing on behalf of Kimberley residents on a pro bono basis, stated that while his clients did not have legal standing, ratepayers were entitled to approach the court for relief.

“In an unprecedented move, thousands of Kimberley residents marched to the municipal offices, where almost 40 000 households will be adversely affected if the tariffs are imposed as from July 1,” said Babuseng.

He explained that residents had chosen to apply for the interdict as a group, as a Kimberley ratepayers’ association did not exist.

Babuseng pointed out that if unidentified occupants were cited by local government in eviction orders, then Kimberley residents should not be prevented from making a court application.

The legal representative for the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs, state attorney Benita Wells, indicated that they would abide by the decision of the court.

Northern Cape High Court Judge President Pule Tlaletsi stated that the court could not confer legal standing.

“We cannot create a fictitious organisation without a properly constituted entity. The entire Kimberley is not party to this application.”

He advised that the matter would have to be instituted by individuals, a voluntary organisation with legal standing or a registered legal entity.

“An individual has legal standing by virtue of being a resident and ratepayer.”

He added that in the event of a cost order, an individual would stand the risk of having to carry the legal costs.

“The applicants should have been properly advised before the application was presented before court.”

Tlaletsi was mindful of the fact that the electricity tariffs were an emotive issue and pointed out that residents “should not be punished” with the burden of the legal costs.

Tlaletsi dismissed the application and ordered each party to pay their own costs.

A meeting was held yesterday to provide feedback to thousands of residents who marched to the municipal offices last week in objection to the implementation of a 5.95% electricity hike along with a R260 basic surcharge that would have been introduced as from July 1.

Sol Plaatje executive mayor Mangaliso Matika agreed to waive the R260 levy following a massive outcry from communities and intervention from the ANC provincial leadership last week.

Council will be meeting this week to discuss the tariffs and the impact on the removal of the R260 surcharge, where Matika had indicated that the shortfall in the budget would have to be recouped elsewhere.

The chairperson of the Northern Cape Civics Organisation, Ross Henderson, said they were prepared to take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

“The electricity levies were bulldozed through without following processes. It is disheartening that ratepayers will have to foot the bill for a legal representative from outside the Province, where the bill would be in excess of R100 000. Once again it is fruitless and wasteful expenditure as we have competent attorneys who are locally based.”

Henderson indicated that while the municipality had won the case on a technicality, the court had yet to debate the merits of the case, where Henderson said they are confident of a victory.

“We have a competent legal team and the necessary resources to take this matter on review in conjunction with affected Kimberley residents.”