Farmers and business owners in the Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipality of the eastern Free State have been subpoenaed for over R1 billion in overdue levy payments. According to the attorney representing the municipality, André Podbielski of Podbielski Mhlambi in Welkom, confusion arose over levy payments after finance minister Trevor Manuel’s 2005 budget speech.
He had announced that regional service council levies would be made defunct at the end of June 2006 and instead, the regional service councils would be incorporated into the district municipalities. Shortly after Manuel’s speech the municipality stopped sending out its monthly statements to ratepayers, who stopped paying their rates
The municipality is now being pressured by government to collect the outstanding monies, but has until the end of June to issue about 13 000 summonses. Podbielski said many white farmers have complained that this is another attempt by government to get more money from them. But he has reassured Farmer’s Weekly that the overdue levies were not based on colour as over 1 000 of the businesses belonged to black owners and farmers in the QwaQwa area. – David Steynberg