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SARS stopped from seizing Lesotho-registered car, but . . .

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Staff Reporter

Driving a foreign-registered vehicle on South African roads without a valid import permit could land you in trouble with the law, like a Free State businessman recently found out.

Joaquim Alves, from Ficksburg in the eastern part of the province, can however count himself lucky after the courts thwarted – on a technicality – the state’s attempts to seize his car, a second-hand Nissan Serena station wagon.

The Free State High Court last week dismissed with costs an appeal lodged by the South African Revenue Service (SARS) against a court order to release the vehicle in question to the owner.

The Lesotho-registered car was first impounded by customs officials on April 25 2019 at a joint roadblock with the traffic department in the Ficksburg area after the driver, one Ms Jansen, failed to produce an import permit as is required by law when a South African citizen who resides in South Africa owns and/or drives an imported second-hand vehicle.

She claimed she had borrowed the vehicle from Alves, who reportedly owns a car rental company called Euro Fleet Services in Lesotho.

While the customs officials were in the process of issuing to Jansen a detention notice as well as a letter requesting documents in order to assist SARS to establish whether the vehicle was duly entered for importation, Alves arrived and unlawfully retrieved the car from the municipal premises where it was going to be kept.

He argued that he was under the impression that “by virtue of the Southern African Union Agreement, whenever he travels between Lesotho and South Africa, he is not required to comply with any other requirements than producing his passport and having it stamped at the border post”.

Alves was then arrested on a theft charge and released on bail after appearing in the Ficksburg Magistrates Court on May 6 2019.

The vehicle was now held by the South African Police Service (SAPS) as an item relevant to the charge.

On July 24 2019, the criminal case was withdrawn upon which the police handed the vehicle – which they had held for approximately two-and-a-half months – back to SARS and not to the owner.

Alves then launched an urgent court application, on 7 August, seeking an order to get his car released to him.

He won the case, as the court ruled that SARS had failed to finalise its investigations in reasonable time.

SARS was ordered to return the vehicle within 48 hours of the order of the court as well as to pay the costs of the application.

But SARS held on to the vehicle while appealing.

Leave to appeal was granted on September 19 and, eight days later, SARS gave notice to Alves of the findings in its investigation and its intent to forfeit the vehicle in question to the state.

On October 14, the customs authority notified him of the final forfeiture of the vehicle to the state.

In the appeal case, the relief sought by SARS was to have the orders granted by the court a quo set aside and substituted with one dismissing Alves’ application with costs.

The customs authority also wanted Alves to be ordered to pay the appellants’ legal costs.

The respondent opposed the appeal on two primary grounds: “In the main, that this appeal be dismissed with costs for mootness; and in the alternative, that this appeal be dismissed with costs on the merits.”

In law, mootness arises when there is no longer an actual controversy between the parties to a court case, and any ruling by the court would have no actual, practical impact.

After adjudicating the matter on the heads of argument, Judge M Opperman dismissed the appeal, with Judge AF Jordaan and Judge MA Mathebula concurring.

The bench ordered each party to pay its own costs.

“The judgment a quo (judgment from which the appeal was taken) did not amend the law in any form or manner,” Judge Opperman noted in his ruling.

“It merely, on the facts that prevailed, found the period of the detainment of the vehicle for investigations to have been delayed to such an extent that it affected the . . . constitutional right of the respondent.”

While the latest ruling came as a huge relief to Alves – and probably also gave hope to many other South Africans in a similar predicament – the court did not strip SARS of its powers to impound imported vehicles or goods found without the relevant documents.

Judge Opperman noted that Alves’ vehicle had been “lawfully confiscated and later lawfully detained by the SAPS and SARS respectively”.

“It is important to emphasise what the court did not find,” he said.

“The court did not find that the detention of the vehicle was illegitimate, unreasonable or arbitrary but for the further and continued detention after the order a quo.

“The court did not find any illegal conduct perpetrated by SARS or any of their officials nor by the SAPS or any of their officials.

“The court did not rule that the conduct of the respondent was proper and legal or condoned it in any manner.”

The judge also said the ruling did not exclude criminal prosecution of the respondent.

“The court did not rule against any future action by SARS to seize and order forfeiture of the vehicle in accordance with the law and to serve justice and the administration of justice,” he said.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Desiree Arendse

    February 23, 2022 at 11:28 am

    Hi my Lesotho registered vehicle was seized by Saps Cape Town Central Vehicle Safeguarding Section in Bellville, Cape Town on the 25th January 2022 when I went to them and asked the procedure to change my numberplate to CA/Cape Town. I was told that even though my car is registered in my name in Lesotho, these cars are not allowed to be driven on South Africa’s roads and they seized it. I was told that they are suppose to put me in jail also coz these cars don’t belong here whilst I have friends here in Cape Town also driving Lesotho numberplate cars. What am I to do now coz I am a 57 year old unemployed single woman and can’t afford a lawyer. Please give me advise coz I saw its OFFICIAL for us to drive legally on S.A.Roads without a permit coz Lesotho falls under SACU.

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall

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DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung speaker vows not to be silenced by charges

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DEFIANT . . . Mangaung council speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo

Mangaung council speaker Stefani Lockman-Naidoo has vowed not to stop fighting corruption in the metro after she was summoned to a disciplinary hearing set for next month for disobeying her party, the ANC, resulting in the axing and suspension of senior officials in the municipality.

The ANC Mangaung Interim Regional Committee (IRC) has summoned her to a disciplinary hearing on June 7 to answer to charges of knowingly and intentionally defying a resolution of the ANC Caucus in council after she allowed a motion to be debated without referring it to party structures in the council.

Lockman-Naidoo’s tiff with her party dates back to January when the Mangaung IRC announced her suspension after she was accused of defying the ANC’s instruction no to proceed with a sitting which resulted in then acting city manager Sello More being removed from office.

The Mangaung speaker also told The Free Stater on Thursday that she was being targeted for presiding over a recent council sitting that resolved to suspend several allegedly corrupt officials in the municipality.

“We are being charged for suspending a corrupt HOD (head of department),” said Lockman-Naidoo, referring to David Nkaiseng who heads corporate services.

A council meeting held on May 12 – after receiving an investigation report from Matlho Attorneys – resolved, among others, to bring charges against Nkaiseng for his alleged role in unlawfully appointing the officials resulting in the flouting of municipal policy of appointment of officials as well as flouting municipal staff regulations and the code of conduct for municipal officials.

“We are being targeted because we are purging these corrupt officials of Mangaung,” charged Lockman-Naidoo.

“I will not tolerate any corruption . . . Wherever I go I will be known as that speaker that didn’t tolerate corruption,” she added confidently.

The speaker was however quick to point out that those charging her had no authority to do so.

“But you see, the charges are not from the ANC because they didn’t ask for permission from the provincial coordinator (Paseka Nompondo) to charge us,” she said.

“The region itself is an illegitimate structure. Its term has expired and these are just factions . . .

“It’s a faction of the region that is charging us – it’s not the ANC.

“They are the ones that are purging us because we are not part of their faction.

“This is what’s going on. They don’t tolerate me.”

Lockman-Naidoo claimed the faction was not happy with the suspension of the HOD.

“The council resolution . . . says several criminal charges must be opened against the HOD himself and relevant officials,” she said.

“And I’m wrong for suspending a person like that?

“I don’t mind being charged at all because we did the right thing as council.

“They are saying . . . they are charging us because I allowed the item to sit in council.

“It’s not my item – it’s a council item. I couldn’t remove it. There was nothing I could do.”

Council also resolved that Nzimeni Maswabi be charged by acting city manager for his role in approving unlawful staff appointments.

It also wants Thabang Joseph Mpeli to be charged for his role in the drafting of unlawful appointment letters.

However, ANC Mangaung IRC spokesperson Ncamisa Ngxangisa has dismissed Lockman-Naidoo’s claims saying the party was not targeting anyone but it simply wanted to put its house in order.

In a separate interview, Ngxangisa said there were concerns some councillors could be working with the opposition, hence the probe.

“We are not targeting individuals. We are dealing with members of the ANC who happen to be councillors in this regard,” he told The Free Stater.

“This is after we received concerns that there could be some members who are voting with the opposition, against the position of the caucus of the ANC in that municipality.

“We took everything as it is, and referred the matter to our sub-committee that deals with issues of discipline so that they inquire into all these allegations levelled against all these comrades.

“But at the same time, it gives these comrades an opportunity to respond or query any evidence that may be presented against them.”

Ngxangisa said every organisation implements disciplinary processes when something goes wrong and the ANC was only exercising its right to do so.

“We are a political party, we contest elections,” he said.

“We are relying on our councillors to make sure that our policy position and decisions find expression in that council.

“If there are allegations that such is not happening, any self-loving political party will stand up and do something about it.

“These accusations are neither here nor there – no one is targeted.

“There are concerns that the centre is not holding in that municipality.

“Our caucus through the chief whip is not given enough support by our councillors and there are such allegations.

“That’s a cause for serious concern which must be attended to so that the ANC can at least enjoy its majority in that municipality.”

The Mangaung IRC spokesperson emphasised that the ANC was firmly against any corrupt activities but indicated that councillors were expected to represent the interests of the party and not their own.

“When we say all councillors must toe this line, we expect everyone to toe that line. Anyone who goes astray is a concern to us,” he said.  – Staff Reporter

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Centlec warns cable theft masterminds

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STOLEN . . . Part of the copper cable recovered by the police

Power distribution company Centlec has issued a stern warning to people believed to be hired by unknown individuals or syndicates to steal copper cables from the power lines saying it will not allow them to destroy such key infrastructure and put the country’s economy at risk.

“This is war and we will fight it tooth and nail,” said Centlec in a statement.

“We want to send a strong message to the criminals and their handlers that we will not rest until they are behind bars,” added the company, which distributes electricity to Mangaung and surrounding municipalities.

It said it is aware that most of the criminals are just fronts who are sent by kingpins who then process the copper before selling it.

Centlec warned the kingpins that they would soon face the full might of the law.

“Some of the fronts happen to be vulnerable foreign nationals who are being used to steal our cables by their handlers,” said the company.

A joint operation by Centlec and the police in recent weeks has led to several arrests and the recovery of hundreds of kilogrammes of copper cable destined for scrapyards.

In the latest three incidents, a man was arrested in Botshabelo after being found in possession of copper cable believed to have been stolen.

Several people were also arrested following inspections at two scrapyards in Botshabelo where large amounts of copper were found.

At a scrapyard in Bloemfontein, a man was issued with a fine after he was found with copper weighing 150kg which he failed to account for.

Investigations are still underway to ascertain the real owner of the scrapyard for possible arrest.

“We are worried that many of these scrapyards are becoming a haven for criminals and promoting criminality,” said Centlec chief executive officer Malefane Sekoboto. – Staff Reporter

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