Leop­ard Creek and mu­nic­i­pal­ity set­tle dis­pute over un­paid rates

CityPress - - News -

The man­age­ment at a pres­ti­gious golf es­tate owned by one of South Africa’s rich­est men, Jo­hann Ru­pert, is set­tling a R75 mil­lion debt owed to a poor ru­ral mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the form of un­paid rates and taxes.

Leop­ard Creek Golf Es­tate reached the set­tle­ment with Mpumalanga’s Nko­mazi Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in Malalane on Tues­day af­ter a pro­tracted Val­u­a­tion Ap­peals Board hear­ing.

The case has been open since last year.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity val­ued the prop­erty at R1.4 bil­lion in 2012 and ex­pected the golf es­tate to pay it at least R10 mil­lion a year.

But Leop­ard Creek con­tin­ued pay­ing it R35 000 a year, in ac­cor­dance with an agree­ment it had struck with the erstwhile tran­si­tional coun­cil in 1996, be­fore the Mu­nic­i­pal Prop­erty Rates Act was pro­mul­gated in 2004.

De­tails of the set­tle­ment agree­ment re­mained con­fi­den­tial as lawyers of both par­ties had not fi­nalised it this week.

How­ever, City Press un­der­stands that Leop­ard Creek Share Block, which owns the golf course and es­tate, was ne­go­ti­at­ing to pay 40%, or R30 mil­lion, of the debt as a set­tle­ment.

A source close to ne­go­ti­a­tions said the amount was ex­pected to be paid soon and that the com­pany dis­puted the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s prop­erty value es­ti­mates.

“They low­ered the land value. They said the value was R65 mil­lion and would be R550 mil­lion af­ter the sec­ond phase of the devel­op­ment is fin­ished,” the source said.

“We have a bet­ter deal now be­cause tax will be levied on R550 mil­lion and, af­ter the sec­ond phase is fin­ished, it will be R750 mil­lion.”

This means Nko­mazi Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity could earn about

R1 mil­lion a year from the prop­erty.

Cyril Ripinga, spokesper­son for the Nko­mazi Lo­cal Mu­nic­i­pal­ity, said: “Lawyers are still draft­ing the agree­ment and we will com­mu­ni­cate the out­come af­ter that.”

Leop­ard Creek Share Block’s lawyer, Igno Gouws, said the par­ties would make a joint state­ment once ne­go­ti­a­tions were con­cluded.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity ac­cused the com­pany of in­grat­i­tude af­ter it per­suaded com­mu­ni­ties lodg­ing a land resti­tu­tion claim in 2008 to ex­clude the es­tate be­cause of its po­ten­tial pos­i­tive eco­nomic im­pact.

It also ob­tained an or­der from the Pre­to­ria High Court in favour of the es­tate, which is lo­cated on the south­ern bor­der of the Kruger Na­tional Park.

The es­tate has 271 res­i­dences, along with recre­ational fa­cil­i­ties and an 18-hole golf course with a club house. Ev­ery year, the world’s top golfers con­verge there to par­tic­i­pate in the mul­ti­mil­lion-rand Al­fred Dun­hill Cham­pi­onship.

Nko­mazi col­lects rates and taxes from four ur­ban towns – Malalane, Hec­tor­spruit, Mar­loth Park and Ko­matipoort – and 70% of its bud­get comes from govern­ment. Its an­nual bud­get is R1.1 bil­lion, which is not enough to pro­vide ser­vices to 54 vil­lages, where unem­ploy­ment is rife.

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