Unlawful rates set aside after decade-long battle

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More than 170 farmers from Lydenburg and the surrounding areas have been able to let out a sigh of relief after the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) ruled the excessive rates charged by the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality between 2009 and 2018 unlawful and set aside.

“This is a groundbreaking decision in the sense that the municipality is ordered to credit the accounts with the rates that were incorrectly levied,” says Ben Espach, valuations director at Rates Watch.

“In previous cases the actions of municipalities were found to be unlawful, but they were not instructed to refund ratepayers.”

The farmers, who cultivate maize, soya, wheat and citrus, and farm cattle for meat, joined forces as the Thaba Chweu Rural Forum. They based their objections on legislative prescripts that limit the tariff charged for land used for agricultural purposes to 25% of that applicable to land used for residential purposes. This is expressed as a ratio of 1:0.25.

The municipality did not adhere to that, and in one example used in the court ruling a farmer’s annual rates bill increased from R1 432.08 to R149 448.60 in 2014/15.

Read the full article on Money Web here.

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