The Kouga Council succeeded in its bid to have the controversial sale of a prime piece of land in Humansdorp by the previous municipal administration set aside.
Executive Mayor Elza van Lingen says the judgement of the Port Elizabeth High Court last week was a victory for Kouga residents and ratepayers who would, otherwise, in effect have been short-changed by almost R49 million.
The land in question is a portion of Erf 499 at Humansdorp, situated at the entrance to the town from the N2.
The portion, totalling 183ha in size, was sold by the previous municipal administration to a private developer for R 1,2 million despite the potential value of the land being close to R 50 million.
Van Lingen says the sale of Erf 499 to the Zeekoei Consortium in 2015 was riddled with irregularities, which prompted the newly-elected Council to pursue the matter legally following their inauguration in August last year.
“The sale failed to comply with a whole host of legal requirements, including section 14 of the Municipal Finance Management Act, section 217 of the Constitution and the municipality’s own Administration of Immovable Property Policy.
“Although the review period had already lapsed, we could not sit back and do nothing when Kouga’s people had clearly been cheated out of millions of Rands that could have been put towards service delivery,” she says.
Van Lingen says irregularities included the blatant dismissal by former ANC councillors of a Council resolution, taken in 2014, that the land should be rezoned from agricultural to industrial prior to it being alienated so that it could be sold for the maximum value.
“At the time the alienation of municipal land was being driven by a ‘land alienation committee’, consisting of councillors.
ANC councillors serving on the committee took it upon themselves to change the Council resolution without due process being followed, so as to enable the sale to the Zeekoei Consortium to go through for a fraction of what the land could have been sold for,” she says.
“Even more disturbing, is that the Zeekoei Consortium was not a legally constituted company at the time of the sale; in other words, the land was sold to a company that did not yet exist.”
According to Van Lingen the Zeekoei Consortium had initially indicated that they would oppose the municipality’s bid to have the sale set aside, however, they withdrew when the case went to court.
She says the municipality would be seeking legal counsel as to whether criminal charges could be laid against those councillors and officials who had been involved in the irregular sale.