Date: 16 February 2019 By: Andries van Zyl
“Nothing but glorified stealing!” This is how well-known businessman Mr Robert Rauch from Louis Trichardt describes the property rates he is being charged monthly according to the latest valuation roll for 2018 to 2023 which came into effect on 1 July last year.
The almost R10 million tender for the compilation of the 2018/23 valuation roll for Makhado was awarded to Port Elizabeth-based company Geospatial Valuation Technologies. From the outset, questions were asked as to why such a tender had been awarded to an outside company not familiar with the local property market. Many described their “new valuations” as nothing more than a thumb suck, especially since a vast number of properties had been greatly over-valued. This was especially the case with farms, some of which had increased in value by between 200% and 500% in a mere four years.
Shortly after the implementation of the new roll, the Zoutpansberger asked Geospatial Valuation Technologies to explain exactly how they had determined the properties’ new values. In response, the company answered that they had physically visited every property, although not required to do so by law. They said they could also make use of analytical comparisons and other systems, such as aerial photographs. This, however, did not explain how they had then arrived at the numerous exorbitant valuations on some properties. The only reply the Zoutpansberger received was from the company’s Mr Glyde Lawrence, who phoned the newspaper on 6 July last year, stating that he was not going to comment on anything as the matter was sub judice (by implication meaning that his company had been taken to court).
More than eight months later, the ghost of exorbitant valuations by Geospatial Valuation Technologies continues to haunt the Makhado Municipality.
According to Rauch, he is being charged nine times the amount in property rates that what he was being charged according to the 2014/18 valuation roll for his factory, Dinnermates, in the industrial area. He said he had tried to resolve the issue with the municipality on several occasions, but without any success. He even gave Mr Lawrence a call in November last year. “I told him that he must explain to me in writing how they determined my new property rate. He threw the receiver down in my ear,” said Rauch. In the meantime, said Rauch, he continued to pay an estimated amount of what he saw as a realistic valuation of his property according to its previous valuation.
Another businessman who is fuming, and rightfully so, is Mr Aslam Akoo. At present, he is being charged more than R50 000 in property rates every month after his 2 855m² erf in Rissik Street was valued at just over R50 200 000 by Lawrence’s company. The property, housing a small car dealership and sporting a small office on site, is situated next to Bergwater Hotel (residents are welcome to drive past and decide for themselves if the property is worth R50 million plus).
By December last year, Akoo was R300 000 in arrears in property rates, refusing to pay the amount. He has also taken the matter up with the Makhado Municipality, asking for the matter to be resolved.
At this stage, the newspaper needs to point out that neither Rauch nor Akoo had initially objected against their properties’ new valuation during the specified objection period of 19 March 2018 to the 4 May 2018. “We are extremely busy businessmen. Most of the time I am away in Johannesburg. I did not know about the objection period. In this day and age, with all the new technology like e-mail, one would expect the municipality to at least send you a message that your property rates will increase from this to that,” said Rauch.
The municipality seems to be using the fact that neither Rauch nor Akoo had objected during the defined period to force them to pay. Technically they can, but how ethical is this? In Akoo’s case, the municipality admitted that the R50 million valuation was a gross mistake.
Municipal spokesperson Mr Louis Bobodi was asked last week what they planned to do about Akoo’s case. He responded this week by stating that the value of the property had been determined by the municipality’s valuer, designated by the municipality to do so in terms of Section 33 of the Local Government Property Rates Act, 2004 (Act No 6 of 2004). “Mr Aslam Akoo (Ahmal Investment CC) submitted a letter dated 3 December 2018 to the municipality stating dissatisfaction with regard to the valuer as determined and also with the thinking that it might be an evaluating error. The municipality attended the matter by writing a letter dated 12 December 2018 to the municipality valuer requesting re-evaluation of the property as indeed it was an error as the property was over-valued,” said Bobodi. Bobodi then added that, since the matter was with the valuer [Geospatial Valuation Technologies] “who is an expert” in the valuation field, the municipality could not do a comparison of the previous and current evaluation roll except to wait for an answer from the valuer.
Bobodi then threw the proverbial book at Akoo. He quoted Section 50(6) of the relevant Act at length, stating that “the lodging of an objection does not defer liability for payment of rates beyond the date determined for payment.” Adding to this, Bobodi said, Akoo had not objected during the objection period. “The matter has been sent to the municipality’s valuer and it will be included in the supplementary valuation roll no. 3, which will be submitted to the municipality by the valuer before end of March 2019. Upon receipt of [the] supplementary roll, the municipality will then publish a notice calling for inspection and submission of objection[s], and Mr Aslam Akoo should make use of the opportunity,” said Bobodi.
In a follow-up question, Bobodi was asked if this actually meant that Akoo must keep on paying the R50 000 per month, even though the municipality itself had admitted that it had made a gross error. No reply was received. What it boils down to is that, by law, the municipality can force him to pay the erroneous and ludicrous R50 000 per month until the matter has been resolved.
In the meantime, Rauch said that he had another meeting scheduled with the municipality to try and resolve the issue. The Zoutpansberger also asked Geospatial Valuation Technologies to explain how such an error could have occurred and whether they had done anything since 12 December to rectify their mistake. No response was received.
The newspaper is aware of many other similar problems experienced by local business owners.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.