South African property owners are on the cusp of disaster or vindicated victory. The back-and-forth David-and-Goliath battle between the municipalities of Tshwane and Ekurhuleni against their residents in the so-called historical debt saga will finally be settled by an expected full bench in the Constitutional Court.
“In November 2016 the North Gauteng High Court held that the conduct of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality was unlawful and declared that it is constitutionally invalid for these municipalities to hold the new owner of a property liable for the previous owners municipal debts on that property (and thereafter to refuse to supply and/or suspend municipal services or to refuse to enter into consumer agreements with the new owner),” said Peter Livanos, MD of New Ventures Consulting & Services: the Municipal Debt Specialist, who was was one of the first people to approach the courts to enforce the public’s rights for the correct interpretation of Section 118 of the Municipal Systems Act. “In compliance with the Constitution, this matter was referred to the Constitutional Court for confirmation. Thereafter, the respective municipalities filed appeals with the Constitutional Court.
“The confirmation application and the appeal applications are set down to be heard in the Constitutional Court of South Africa on 23 May 2017.”
Section 118 of the Municipal Systems Act has been very contentious and controversial since its enactment in 2000, with various court challenges being launched over the past 16 years.
“Unfortunately, none of these court challenges has dealt directly with the Constitutional invalidity of s118(3),” said Livanos. “We are confident that this court case will be a landmark and historic one as it should settle the interpretation of s118(3) once and for all.”
The Municipal Debt Specialist says that if any municipality tries to force innocent parties to pay and/or sign Acknowledgement of Debt, to pay the unlawful amounts under protest.
“We have no doubt that after the Con Court hands down its judgment, all municipalities will be obliged to refund the public,” said Livanos.