More legal costs for Ndlambe

Ndlambe Municipality is involved in another lawsuit which may end up costing it money – meaning the ratepayers will be the ones forking out.

It seems the timing for lawsuits is March, as the case on the front page is a mirror of the RO plant lawsuit last year.

But this time, it was the municipality rather than an aggrieved losing bidder that launched an application for an interdict.

And this time, the municipality wants its own approval, or more specifically the approval signed by a deputy director, to “be declared unlawful and set aside” by the Grahamstown High Court.

And, also mirroring last year’s case, Ndlambe has won the first round – the granting of the interdict – but will its legal reasoning hold up in the review case? Last year it lost the review of the RO plant tender, the judge declaring the municipality’s decision to award the tender to Quality Filtration Systems unlawful and setting it aside.

Municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni in particular was excoriated by Judge Phillip Zilwa in that case, for “actions tainted with impropriety and irregularity”.

Among the questionable actions was paying R20-million to QFS before a written contract pertaining to the tender had been signed by the parties.

It may be that the municipality is much more aware now to dot all i’s and cross all t’s, and thus resorting to a lawsuit to correct what it calls “approval by error”, the issue of course being the granting of approval to Herotel for a wayleave to lay internet fibre and erect poles all over Port Alfred.

It may seem to most residents by now that the horse has already bolted from the stable, as the court agreed that Herotel has nearly completed its fibre laying work – it has done 18km, with only 3km left to go.

Herotel said it had invested R9-million in this project. You can understand them not wanting to back down.

Nevertheless, the court found that it was probable that a deputy director had signed a letter without realising that he gave permission to Herotel to undertake the works, and also probable that it would be found in the review application that this “approval by error” did not constitute legitimate approval.

If it loses the review case which follows this temporary interdict, will it have to dig up all the cable it has laid and take down the poles it has erected? This seems unlikely.

It is worth bearing in mind that other internet fibre providers are waiting in the wings, and the municipality is obviously considering their own wayleave applications.

– Jon Houzet

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