The Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality in Limpopo has denied claims made by the Democratic Alliance (DA) that it spent R1 million to defend a R175 000 claim by a service provider.
Thabiso Mokoena, the spokesperson for the municipality, said the party was spreading falsehoods in defence of Mapale Distributors & Enterprise CC after it lost a court case against the municipality over R1.4 million questionable tax charges.
Last week, DA councillor Itumeleng Molapo threatened to write a letter to the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements, and Traditional Affairs MEC Basikopo Makamu, urging an investigation into the legal expenditure. He claimed the municipality had spent R1 million in legal fees to defend an outstanding bill of R175 000.
At the centre of the legal battle is a payment dispute between Fetakgomo Tubatse Local Municipality and Mapale Distributors & Enterprise CC, contracted to erect a cemetery fence in 2015, over R1.4 million tax charges.
According to court documents seen by African Times, both parties fought in various courts over the disputed tax charges claimed by Mapale Distributors & Enterprise CC, which the municipality contended were undue and inflated.
The Taxing Master in Praktiseer had approved Mapale Distributors & Distributors’ R1.4 million tax charges for the R175 000 invoice without the municipality’s lawyers, a decision the Polokwane High Court took issue with on the basis that public funds were involved.
Mapale Distributors & Enterprise took the municipality to court early last year and won.
The Praktiseer Magistrates Court granted the company an order to attach the municipality’s property and, later, its main bank account. Fetakgomo Tubatse Municipality filed papers at the Polokwane High Court appealing the order and the Taxing Master’s decision, arguing the tax charges were approved in its absence.
After a legal ping-pong between the municipality and Mapale Distributors & Enterprise, between the Praktiseer Magistrates Court and the Polokwane High Court, Judge J Kganyago ruled in the municipality’s favour in August last year.
The judge also hit Mapale Distributors & Enterprise with costs.
Mokoena said: “This is a legacy case from 2015 and has been dealt with accordingly. We would like to dismiss these allegations and the peddling of lies with the objective of discrediting the image of the municipality by Councillor Tumelo Molapo.
“It was clear from the onset that Councillor Tumelo Molapo had always stood against the view of defending this irregular claim. He has always been on the side of the service provider instead of fighting to defend the interests of the people of Fetakgomo Tubatse.”
Mokoena took issue with Molapo’s “suspicious and questionable” in the matter, calling for him to be investigated to determine any potential connection he may have with Mapale Distributors & Enterprise CC.
“We would like to put on record that the R175 000 matter was settled a long time ago, and the current litigation is on the highly inflated taxation costs claimed by Mapale Distributors & Enterprise CC,” he said.
“It is on record that the municipality did not sign any settlement agreement on the R1.7 million to be paid. The DA should refrain from spreading false information to create the wrong impression about the municipality.”
According to a statement released by Molapo on October 3, Fetakgomo Tubatse Municipality’s legal department spent over R1 144 420 defending an R175 000 bill from a service provider.
The statement did not name Mapale Distributors & Enterprise by name.
Molapo said the bill was for the discrepancy in project value, work completed, and certification for the construction and erection of a cemetery fence.
He claimed the municipality paid the disputed amount but failed to pay the legal costs.
“While the municipality paid the amount in dispute, it failed to pay the cost and lodged an application to stay the warrant of execution, and a taxation application was also lodged upon the execution,” claimed Molapo.
“A settlement agreement was reached, but the municipality appointed yet another attorney to appeal the taxation agreement after their claims that the attorney of record had no mandate.”