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High Court rejects refund claim after company spent own R235 000 fixing potholes

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Staff Reporter

A Free State transport and logistics company will not recover a single cent after it used its own money to fix a local road it says was in a bad state.

Goldfields Logistics (Pty) Ltd took the provincial Department of Police, Roads and Transport to court claiming a reimbursement amounting to R234 594.65 for repairs that it says it effected on the R59 road between Bothaville and Parys in the province.

In the claim instituted at the Free State High Court, the company said it had, among other things, spent R22 750.10 on paying casual labourers hired between 14 June 2015 and 24 April 2017 to fix the road.

Goldfields Logistics also claimed it had used R29 340.86 to purchase bitumen emulsion for use in the repairs, as well as R28 710 on travelling costs for a supervisor and labourers involved in the roadworks.

Two supervisors overseeing the road repairs had been paid an amount totalling R45 936 as salaries at R400 per day for 58 days, the plaintiff claimed.

However, in its plea, the roads department contended that “it had no knowledge of the plaintiff’s alleged maintenance of the R59 road between 2014 and 2017”.

It also denied having authorised the plaintiff’s alleged conduct tacitly or otherwise.

The department specifically pleaded that the plaintiff “had a duty to notify the defendant of its intended actions and take certain further steps”.

The defendant further pleaded that, in the event the repairs had to be carried out as a matter of urgency, the plaintiff was required to “obtain two independent invoices from civil contractors evidencing the reasonable costs of repairs”.

Goldfields Logistics should also have submitted evidence as to the condition of the road and a motivation to the department as to why the repair was required, the defendant argued.

“The plaintiff ought to have given the defendant an opportunity of one month to inspect the work and indicate whether it is satisfactory or not,” the department pleaded.

“Thereafter render an invoice to the defendant after the inspection had been completed to the satisfaction of the defendant, alternatively after the month for inspection had lapsed.”

After hearing the matter, Judge Sharon Chesiwe said it was difficult for the court to order the relief sought considering that the defendant was a state organ and that the necessary procurement in terms of all the relevant legislation and policies had not been followed.

“It may have been a good initiative from the plaintiff’s side, but the applicable procurement prescripts which are designed to ensure transparency (and) cost effectiveness must be followed,” she noted in her ruling delivered on March 3.

“The various statutes such as the Public Finance Management Act 1 of 1991 (PFMA), Municipal Finance Management Act 56 of 2003 (MFMA) . . . supply chain management policies are there for a purpose and to prevent a free-for-all management of the state’s affairs.

“Indeed, the state will be flooded with claims and litigation from parties who will claim that they managed the state’s affairs. 

“Litigants would repair and fix state property without following the proper procurement process.”

The judge acknowledged that it was no secret that roads in and around the Free State province were riddled with potholes

“It is tempting for businesses to try and fix these roads, as it affects them,” she said.

Judge Cheshiwe said the roads department, as a state organ, was obliged to follow the prescripts of the PFMA, the MFMA and National Treasury, including supply chain management policies, to pay for services rendered. 

“Equally frustrating as it may be for companies such as the plaintiff and having had to fix these potholes, the court cannot condone such action which may result in countless claims against the state, which claims will not be verified as the proper processes were not followed nor the procurement process,” she ruled.

The claim was dismissed with costs.

Goldfields Logistics, established in 1988, is based in Bothaville and runs a massive fleet of trucks that operate across the country.

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Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks

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PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier

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MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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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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