Msunduzi municipality left with bloody nose after High Court sets aside valuation of properties in its CBD

Mzi Thebolla, the mayor of Msunduzi. Picture: Msunduzi Municipality

Mzi Thebolla, the mayor of Msunduzi. Picture: Msunduzi Municipality

Published Mar 16, 2023

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Pietermaritzburg – The ANC-run Msunduzi (Pietermaritzburg) local municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands has been given a bloody nose after the Pietermaritzburg High Court on Thursday set aside the 2019 valuation of some properties for rates levying purposes.

That valuation remains in force.

This was after a group of aggrieved ratepayers (who asked not to be named for security reasons) challenged the troubled municipality, claiming that it was thumb-sucking the value of their properties, thus overpricing them and making them liable for higher rates.

Judge J Mngadi of the High Court ruled that the municipality’s valuation is declared unconstitutional and set it aside.

The setting aside of the valuation doesn’t apply to all aggrieved ratepayers, but it is only limited to the 13 applicants (natural persons and companies).

Mnguni also ruled that the Msunduzi municipality valuation appeal board, which was the second respondent (the first respondent was Msunduzi local municipality) in the matter, undertake the municipal valuation appeal process in respect of each of the properties of the applicants within 60 days of the date (15 March 2023) of his order and in accordance with the terms of this judgment.

The matter started a few years ago when the ratepayers, who are mainly business people with properties, some in the run-down parts of the city called Masukwana and Hoosen Haffajee streets, raised objections.

The latter is one of the dirtiest streets in downtown Pietermaritzburg. The objections pertained to the manner the properties were evaluated.

One of them submitted an affidavit that he owned a warehouse made of second-hand steel with no concrete slabbed floor. It has no plumbing and has a poor electricity supply and a portion of the property is occupied by squatters.

A comparable bigger property at 25 Buntine place has a market value of R6 850 000, although it is bigger at 22 526m² and has a frontage road and had no squatters.

As such, he argued that it could not attract the stated value that Msunduzi municipality wanted him to accept as final.

Furthermore, some of the ratepayers alleged that when they took their matters to the appeal board, the values were slightly reduced and the attitude of the board was not conducive for them to fully state their case.

The ratepayers further contended that the appeals board rejected relevant documents in the form of audited financial statements, estate agents' valuations, comparative sales in the locality, information on the condition of each property, and the prevailing conditions in the area in which the property is located.

They argued that the said information was relevant to determine a market value of a specific property.

Moreover, the ratepayers contended that market values of the properties prior to 2019 were not considered, and the discrepancy between those values and the 2019 market values is unexplained.

In the end, the judge ruled in their favour and it is not yet clear whether the municipality will appeal the ruling or not.

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