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The Pinetown panel beater who did work for the metro police should open a case of theft against the eThekwini municipality if he feels that the city unlawfully removed five metro vehicles from the premises.
That was the response from the city’s legal department deputy head, Malusi Mhlongo, when asked by members of the municipal public accounts committee why the vehicles had been taken without the consent of Richard Govender, the panel beater who had fixed them.
Govender, a businessman whose company did work for the metro police, had urged the committee to intervene in the matter that had been dragging on for more than two years.
A former metro police officer, Govender said the dispute began in August 2009, when six metro vehicles were brought to his premises for repair.
He alleged that the payments stopped after he exposed corruption in the metro police.
At the time, he was owed about R300 000 for the work he had completed, but this amount had grown over the years with storage charges, he said.
Govender said he had repeatedly refused to release the vehicles until the city had settled its debt, which now stood at R1.5m.
However, the vehicles were released to the city last month after it reached an agreement with Rashid Carrim, the landlord of the property on which Govender ran his business.
Carrim released the vehicles after the city had paid him R48 000 for storage. This was after Govender had been evicted for falling behind with his rent.
Govender, who has refused to divulge the whereabouts of the sixth vehicle, a trailer, has since accused the city of fraudulently removing the vehicles.
When asked by the committee’s deputy chairwoman, Nompumelelo Chamane, why the vehicles had been stolen, an irate Mhlongo said: “Govender is talking nonsense when he says the cars were stolen… And if he feels that is the case, then he can open a theft charge.”
Mhlongo said that on Monday the legal department would discuss pursuing legal action against Govender for refusing to divulge the trailer’s whereabouts.
Govender, who was not at the meeting, said he was considering opening the theft charge against the council.