Municipality takes on local businesses

An Mpumalanga municipality has hauled a local business chamber and its members to court to prevent them from setting foot at the municipal offices.

This comes after the chamber allegedly prevented the municipality's service providers from delivering bricks and other products because they had not been procured from local suppliers.

On Wednesday the Mpumalanga division of the high court in Mbombela is expected to hear the urgent application filed by the Bushbuckridge local municipality last Thursday.

The municipality said in its court papers that it wanted the high court to prevent the BBRidge Chamber of Business and its members from "entering premises of the applicant, destructing the services of the applicant, and preventing the applicant's service providers from delivering brick and products to the applicant".

In her founding affidavit, municipal manager Cynthia Audrey Nkuna alleges that members of the chamber prevented service providers from delivering bricks, and assaulted municipal employees.

"On 26 March 2019, members of the first respondent entered the premises of the applicant and made disturbing noise, harassed security officers and applicant's employees, interrupted the business services of the applicant, and made violent utterances," Nkuna stated in her affidavit.

Nkuna said on April 11, members of the chamber returned to the municipal offices, again interrupting services and delivered a memorandum of grievances.

"The first respondent demanded, among other things, that the applicant source bricks from local manufacturers, [and] source kerbs, paving and building bricks locally," stated Nkuna.

She added: "The first responded further demanded that all contractors who signed cessions outside Bushbuckridge must cancel them by the 12th and source locally."

Nkuna said a week later, members of the chamber demanded that all service providers appointed for a paving project not be allowed to deliver bricks. Truck drivers were reportedly assaulted.

"A reasonable [person would] believe that members of the respondents are responsible for the assaults to the truck drivers and they prevented the delivery of bricks," she stated.

Tom Chiloane, president of BBRidge Chamber of Business, said they did not have funds to oppose the interdict application. "We feel very bad as a chamber because we are just protecting the interests of the local people," he said.

Chiloane accused the municipality of failing to implement agreements reached with the chamber in July, where it was agreed that first preference would be given to local businesses. "We are a chamber that represents all local businesses including the taxi industry and hawkers. What we will do is to consult our members to digest this thing [court application] and see what can be done."

Shadow Nyathi, a local businessman, said: "I'm one of those that have been overlooked. The supplier of the bricks is based in White River, not Bushbuckridge."

Nyathi said the chamber had no choice but to stop operations because "all contractors had already begun laying down the paving".

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