Pretoria - Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies has the power to exempt certain municipalities from the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), the High Court in Pretoria heard on Wednesday.
Roshan Bedhesi, for the minister, told Judge Margaret Victor the minister could use two provisions of the Act for this purpose.
He was referring to provisions that allowed the minister to delay the application of the Act to any municipality, except a high-capacity one, for six months.
He could do so for administrative reasons, or after receiving a request by the local government minister.
The court was hearing an application by AfriForum to reverse Davies's decision to exempt certain municipalities from the CPA.
The minister delayed the application of the CPA to all municipalities, except the high capacity ones, through a notice in the Government Gazette on March 14 last year.
He published an updated notice in the Government Gazette in October of the same year.
AfriForum launched its application to reverse the exemption of certain municipalities in September 2011.
Quintus Pelser SC, for the civil rights body, argued an updated notice, which extended the exemption, went against the provisions of the Act, since the minister used both provisions.
“This is not a situation when 'or' should be read as 'and',” he said.
He said Davies had also “failed to apply his mind” to the state of municipalities.
The minister had withheld protection from people in municipalities, in which the Act could be implemented, through his broad decision, Pelser argued.
Bedhesi argued that AfriForum could not bring its application because the organisation “did not exist” and was not a “juristic person”.
“There is no legal entity called AfriForum and they are not a non-profit organisation. There is no basis for this application,” he said.
Pelser argued the organisation had locus standi, which meant it had demonstrated its right to bring the application to court.
“Out of a possible 280 municipalities in South Africa, only people in 47 of them will have the protection of an Act that was intended to be on a national basis,” he argued.
“Everybody else except those who live in high capacity municipalities are affected by the two notices 1/8by the minister 3/8. We submit that they are the people who are interested in this matter.”
Pelser said Davies wanted to ensure the private sector “could not have free hand” under the Act and wanted the Act to create a premium on standards throughout the country.
“(With municipalities) government was doing the opposite that it was preaching.”
He said the wording of the provision stipulated that the exemption could be applied to a single municipality.
The CPA gave rights to consumers who did not receive goods or services for which they had paid.
Currently, it was applicable only to private businesses and high capacity municipalities. - Sapa