Mnquma wins court case against contractor

Judge frowns on delays in six-month project that has stalled since 2014

An Eastern Cape construction company which was in November 2014 awarded a R5.3m contract by Mnquma municipality to upgrade the Butterworth drivers’ licence and testing centre, has lost its court bid to force the municipality to retain it on site.
The project was supposed to last only six months after the tender was awarded on November 6 2014, but Eagle Ukhozi Civils failed to deliver and the project has yet to be completed, four years later.
The municipality has obtained a green light from the Mthatha high court to appoint another company and proceed with work at the centre, which last operated in 2012, forcing locals to travel to as far as Komga and Ngcobo for services.
Eagle Ukhozi approached the high court on September 19 after its security personnel were forcefully removed from the site by municipal authorities on September 12 due to failure to complete the project.
The municipality also re-advertised the tender in May, forcing Eagle Ukhozi director Mpendulo Ndlazi to go the legal route to seek an interdict against the municipality.
Ndlazi, although he conceded in correspondence to the municipality that he was unable to complete the project, had asked the court to declare his company’s eviction unlawful.
He also wanted the court to order council to retain his company on the site until all outstanding money owed was paid. Ndlazi also wanted the court to bar the newly-appointed company from continuing with work until the matter was resolved in court.
In court papers, the municipality claimed Eagle Ukhozi had long abandoned the site and that the project had stalled, with only the security guard left at the premises.
The municipality denied owing the company any money, while the company, through its legal representatives, told the court that the project was “severely delayed due to a litany of challenges”.
Eagle Ukhozi claimed that, among others, the project was delayed after it discovered that the ground in question “was not suitable for construction at the depth of 150mm as stipulated for in the contract”.
It further claimed that these delays were due to some construction material not found in close proximity to the site, while it was unable to claim for haulage of such material from far afield as the variation order had already been approved without such haulage.
It also emerged in court that Ndlazi had opened a case against the municipality in April 2017, after paving bricks were removed from the site and given to another contractor who was working on another municipal sanctioned project in Centane.
However, in their defence, municipal manager Silumko Mahlasela claimed Ndlazi’s company had already abandoned the site at the time and that such material belonged to the municipality and not to his company.
The matter was heard on October 2, with high court judge Mbulelo Jolwana handing down his verdict on October 23.
In his judgment Jolwana said: “I simply do not see how it is in the interest of justice that the stalemate that has been there for a very long time should be allowed to carry on.
“What is in the interest of all concerned, in my view, is the completion of the project, if needs be, by somebody else, so that those who were intended to benefit from the facility are not delayed any longer.”
The judge then dismissed Ndlazi’s application with costs.
Attempts to get comment from Ndlazi were unsuccessful on Wednesday, while Mahlasela welcomed the judgment, saying the centre would now be ready in six months.
“Furthermore, we have processes under way which will unlock any other projects which have in the past been blocked by petty squabbles at the expense of service delivery,” he said...

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