A Durban businessman told the eThekwini municipality’s public accounts committee on Monday that three metro police cars and two bakkies were removed from his business without his permission after he had repaired them and, because of that, he was never paid.

Richard Govender, a former Durban metro police officer who left the force several years ago, said the municipality’s failure to pay meant that he had had to close his business.

The three Nissan Almeras, one Ford Ranger bakkie, Toyota Hilux bakkie and a trailer had been brought in with dents, scratches and rust.

His understanding had been that the vehicles had to be refurbished for the 2010 World Cup.

But, after fixing the vehicles, they were not collected – for two years. Then they were removed suddenly and without his knowledge before he was paid for the job.

“I have had no correspondence from city fleet and metro police about why they were not paying me my money, despite having given them my contact details and address,” he said.

Govender, who owns Pinetown Panel Beaters, has been locked in a legal wrangle with the municipality since 2010.

He claimed that the municipality owed him R38 000 in 2009.

He served the municipality with a letter of demand in February 2010 for payment of R460 000, and had given the city 30 days to respond, to no avail.

He then sent a second letter of demand to the municipality in March last year for R960 000, but again it did not respond.

The city’s deputy head of litigation Malusi Mhlongo told the committee last month that Govender’s rights in Pinetown Panel Beaters cc had been sold on an auction on December 5.

The committee was also told that the vehicles had been returned with missing doors and lights.

In February, the executive committee approved an amount of R1.1m to enable lawyers to bring an application to secure the return of the vehicles.

The municipality’s attorneys had advised that the landlord of the property, Rashid Carrim, had said he would release the vehicles if he was paid R48 000 for storage.

After the city paid the money, the vehicles were released on May 15, but the trailer, worth R6 000, was missing.

Govender questioned how the city could pay R48 000, and not get all its vehicles back.

“If the trailer was not on the premises with the other vehicles, why didn’t the municipality open a case of theft? The municipality owes me about R1.5m,” he said.

“I’ll file papers in court because my consultant was in full negotiations with the council’s external attorneys when they removed the vehicles.

“Those vehicles were the only insurance I had to make sure they paid for the repairs.”

Govender still has all the vehicles’ keys.

Committee deputy chairwoman Nompumelelo Chamane questioned what the R48 000 paid to Carrim was for.

“I don’t know if the cars were released fraudulently,” she said.

“What we need to establish is why was R48 000 paid to the landlord, and how did he arrive at that figure.

“Our officials must answer these questions.” - The Mercury