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Tuesday Sep 20, 2011

Power cut: Tshwane law firm sues council

The Tshwane Metro Council is facing a R150 000 damages claim from a local law firm, whose electricity supply was cut for two days because the council and the firm's landlord were embroiled in a battle over alleged arrears in rates and taxes.

Marius Blom & GC Germishuizen Inc said they were fully paid up on their electricity bill and the rates and taxes battle had nothing to do with them, as they were mere tenants on the property.

Attorney Marius Blom said in papers before the Pretoria High Court that the council couldn't just do as it pleased.

"I am quite aware that it is quite a common phenomenon that the council suspends services without proper notice, and in cases where it is not entitled to do so. The only way of making good the unfairness of it all, is for this court to grant damages against the council."

Blom applied for default judgment against the council as the latter did not give notice of its intention to defend the matter. This was despite the fact that the council knew about the application.

The lawyer said an official of the council's legal department, after receiving summons, asked him for the background facts and said he would refer the matter to the council's accounts department for further instructions. Nothing, however, came of this.

Blom stated that during the time the firm's power was cut, it could not conduct business as it depended on electricity to operate its phones, computers, printers and fax machines. He added that while the effect of the power cut was staggering on business, the electricity bill did not even reflect any saving during the power cut.

The firm is claiming R50 000 for the loss of income it suffered during this time. It is claiming a further R50 000 as the firm believes its good name was tainted as the power cut left the impression that it could not pay the bill.

Blom said during this time clients could not make use of the main entrance to the firm, as the door was electronically operated. They had to receive clients through the back entrance into the dark premises. Blom said they had to explain to people that their electricity supply had been cut, which he said, defamed the firm in the eyes of the public. The council is facing another R50 000 in damages for this.

Blom said the council in any event had no right to cut the power supply due to the dispute regarding the rates and taxes, as the landlord had declared a dispute about this.

When a council official came to the premises to cut the power supply, he was told that the firm was up to date with its bill and that the council could not just cut its power supply because of a dispute with somebody else.

Blom said the official turned a deaf ear and went ahead to cut the supply.

The council's side was not stated, as it did not file papers opposing the claim.

The matter was postponed indefinitely.

Pretoria News


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