IFP-run Zululand district municipality butt heads with ANC-run KZN Cogta over R1.6m legal fees

The MEC says the district municipality cannot demand the legal fees yet. Picture: Supplied

The MEC says the district municipality cannot demand the legal fees yet. Picture: Supplied

Published Apr 4, 2023


Durban - A fresh legal dispute has erupted between the IFP-run Zululand district municipality and the ANC-run KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) department.

Last Friday, the district municipality anchored in Ulundi and made up of Uphongolo, eDumbe, Nongoma, Ulundi and Abaqulusi (Vryheid) local municipalities, wrote to Cogta to demand R1.6 million.

This is for costs incurred by the district municipality when it successfully reviewed and set aside the Section 106 investigation which was carried out by Mdledle Incorporated Attorneys in May 2020.

This is not the first battle between the IFP district municipality and MEC Bongi Sithole-Moloi who is from the ANC where she holds a senior position.

In a letter dated March 31, 2023 directed at Sithole-Moloi, the district municipality demanded the money to be paid within seven days, or it would institute legal actions to recover it.

“We refer to the above matter, more specifically the Section 106 Investigation Report conducted on your behalf by Mdledle Incorporated Attorneys.

— Sihle Mavuso (@ZANewsFlash) April 3, 2023

“On May 6, 2022 Zululand District Municipality secured a court order before the Pietermaritzburg High Court under case number 5660/2020 ordering that the report issued in the forensic investigation into allegations of maladministration, fraud and corruption at Zululand District Municipality (the Investigation) purportedly conducted in terms of Section 106(1)(b) of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000 and serving before the Zululand District Municipality on 14 May 14, 2020 is unconstitutional and unlawful.

“The court further directed that you pay the costs of that litigation, such costs to include that of two counsels.

“On May 17, 2022 you saw it prudent to launch an application for leave to appeal before the Pietermaritzburg High Court despite the lack of prospects.

“On November 28, 2022  the court dismissed your application for leave to appeal and you were again directed to pay the costs of that application such cost to include that of two counsels.

“Pursuant to the cost orders granted against you on May 6, 2022 and November 28, 2022  we hereby demand that you pay the legal costs of the main application together with the costs of your application for leave to appeal in the amount of R1 642 158.40 within 7 days of this letter, failing which we will be left with no option but to institute legal proceedings against you.

“We hope that the above action will not be necessary and we look forward to your payment,” reads the letter from the district municipality to Sithole-Moloi.

Hot under the collar, Sithole-Moloi frowned at the sudden demand and maintained that the municipality could not demand the money as the matter was yet to be determined by the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) where the matter was.

She also said the demand was legally flawed since it was addressed to her when it should have been directed to the department’s attorneys.

Furthermore, she claimed the demand had all the hallmarks of politicking aimed at painting her department in a negative light.

“On the balance of things, and judging from its painstaking conduct in ensuring the communication of this matter to the media, the only reasonable and inescapable conclusion is that the municipality is engaging in cheap political scoring and/or is trying to portray the department in a negative light for unwarranted and unnecessary reasons.

“To respect the legal procedures and processes, the department has elected not to replicate the unprofessional conduct of the municipality, but has instead instructed its attorneys to respond to this correspondence and caution the municipality to desist from engaging in such inappropriate conduct in the future.

“The department can only hope that the municipality will, through communication from the department’s attorneys, be educated on the functioning and operation of court procedures and processes.

“In sum, therefore, the department refutes any claim or suggestion that it owes the amount claimed by the municipality until this matter has been fully exhausted or determined through the court processes,” Sithole-Moloi said on Monday.

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