Fille photo: Boxer Ngwenya
Johannesburg - A Joburg autobody shop is owed hundreds of thousands of rand by the City of Joburg and the Joburg metropolitan police department (JMPD), after they failed to pay the company for almost three months.

Fantam Autobody, which operates in the CBD and has an ongoing contract to fix JMPD cars, was asked to fix 26 vehicles in July this year.

However, the company hasn’t received a cent from the council. It had initially fixed 13 of the vehicles, with costs at nearly R500 000, and released them to the JMPD in August.

But after not receiving any money for the work done, the owners refused to complete work on the remainder of the vehicles, which was likely to cost a further R1million.

The remaining 13 metro police cars, “which are 80% fixed” and include Hyundai, Opel, Hilux, Isuzu bakkies and Ford Ranger models, are parked at the workshop in the CBD.

Co-owner Aadil Halim said his business had taken a huge knock. “When we took on the JMPD contract, we got a loan to be able to purchase the equipment and tools needed (for the job),” said Halim.

“But now that we haven’t received any of the money, we’re unable to pay back the company that gave us the loan, and have been threatened with legal action.”

The outstanding amount is R391 000 for the vehicles released. “Once we didn’t see any money coming from the city, we slowed down on work.

“We’ve had some issues with the council before so we were wary. We were put under pressure to fix these police vehicles because they needed to be on the road.

“We worked hard to meet the deadline so it’s very disappointing that the money didn’t come.”

Halim has been hounding the city for three months over the money and contacted “everyone possible” from the City of Joburg and JMPD, but nobody could give him any answers.

“I have lost count of the number of times I’ve contacted them, visited them, and sent them e-mails. I never got any real response. At most I was told that they were following up on the payment. No one was willing to divulge more.”

The lack of payment has had knock-on effects on their business. “I’ve reached the end of my tether and all my suppliers and creditors are taking legal action against me.

“The lack of payment has really dug us into a deep hole, which has affected the business and our personal lives.”

The debt incurred from taking loans had resulted in threats from their landlord to lock them out of their premises.

“We’ve known the landlord for over 15 years. It kind of ruined the relationship we had with him.”

They were also struggling to pay staff. “My dad and I are the type of people to always pay staff first before we take home a salary.

"We’re battling to pay our staff on a weekly basis.”

He was concerned about what would happen if the money from the council wasn't paid soon.

“I have no clue what I’m going to do. I don’t know what I’m going to tell my staff about their wages either.”

JMPD spokesperson Wayne Minnaar said the department was paying the bill. “Fantam Autobody’s account should be settled by next week".

According to the JMPD fleet manager Pinkie Radise, the delay was caused by moving of funds to the appropriate budget. We apologise for any inconvenience it may have caused.”

City of Joburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said an insurance broker was responsible for the payment. “The insurance broker has assured the city that a payment of R391063 will be made by end of business today (Friday).”

At 4pm Friday, Halim tried to call the city again. “I wanted to find out where my money was, and they gave me a mouthful. They told me they couldn’t help me because I went to the newspapers.”

Saturday Star