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A Durban businessman who has been embroiled in a two-and-a-half-year wrangle with the eThekwini Municipality over unpaid fees says he will not back down until he gets the R1.5 million owed to him.

Richard Govender, whose company Pinetown Panel Beaters did work for the metro police for several years, said on Thursday he was contemplating bringing criminal charges against the city.

A former metro police officer, Govender said the dispute started in August 2009 when six metro vehicles were brought to his premises for repair.

Govender claimed the payments stopped after he exposed corruption within the metro police.

At the time, he said he was owed about R300 000 for the work completed, but the amount escalated over the years due to storage charges.

Govender said he had repeatedly refused to release the vehicles from his premises until the municipality had settled its debt, which now stood at R1.5m.

However, the vehicles were released to the city two weeks ago after it reached an agreement with Rashid Carrim, the landlord of the premises from which Govender’s business was operating.

It emerged during the municipal public accounts committee meeting on Thursday that Govender had been evicted after falling behind in his rent.

Committee members also heard how some of the vehicles had been damaged and were missing doors and lights. Govender denied this.

Malusi Mhlongo, the city’s deputy head of litigation, said five vehicles were recovered. The sixth vehicle, a trailer, could not be located.

Mhlongo told committee members that Govender had been informed of the removal – a claim Govender again denied.

“I was only told about the removal once the vehicles had already been removed,” he said, adding that the vehicles’ keys were still in his possession.

According to a document tabled at the meeting, Carrim released the vehicles after the city had paid him R48 000 for storage.

Govender would not divulge where the trailer was. “They think they are clever,” he said, referring to the city.

“I will not back down from this fight until I get my money. I’m even considering laying criminal charges,” he said. - Daily News