rates and taxes

Are you liable for historical arrear property rates on your property?
12 January 2015
 
Who is responsible for historical arrear property rates and taxes on your property? The good news is that the person who owned the property at the time the debt was incurred is liable. But did you know that a municipality can in some instances cause your property to be sold in execution for debts being owed by a previous owner?

Municipalities are obliged to collect charges that are payable to them for property rates and taxes and for the provision of municipal services. If you buy a house, the relevant municipality will – after the Seller has settled the required amount – issue a clearance certificate that certifies, amongst other things, that all debts have been settled in respect thereof for two years preceding the date of application for the certificate. Now the question arises: What about debts owed to the municipality that are older than two years?

The short answer is that of course the person who owned the property at the time the debt was incurred will be liable. Despite this reality, a threat exists to the new owner of the property based on the infamous section 118(3) of the Municipal Systems Act which provides a municipality with a lien over a property within its jurisdiction to secure payment of money due to it on that property.

What this means is that if there are monies owed to the municipality which relates to the property, the municipality can obtain a judgment against the person liable for the debt (remember it will be the person who owned the property at the time the debt was incurred), but because of section 118(3) the municipality will have the right to attach the property and cause it to be sold in execution to recover the money being owed. And this property may just be that dream house that was registered in your name not that long ago.

Our Supreme Court of Appeal ruled that the transfer of ownership does not destroy the lien created by section 118(3) and the lien will in fact “follow the property”. The appalling result of this is that a new owner may be forced to have to save his property by paying the municipal debt of someone else. You can later try and recover the money from a previous owner, but this may be a futile exercise, leaving you even more out of pocket.

A notable exception to the above rule is where properties are purchased at execution sales where the municipality did not exercise its rights in terms of its lien. In such a case, our courts have recently ruled, the lien of a municipality over a property lapses. Accordingly, where a municipality is aware of the sale in execution of a property and it issues a clearance certificate without any objection or without exercising its rights in terms of section 118(3), the purchaser will acquire a clean title over the property.

Not all debt older than two years are recoverable by the municipality and it is necessary to distinguish between the following types of debt:  rates charges (taxes) and charges for electricity, water, gas and sewer and refuse charges. The reason for having to differentiate is because certain debts prescribe after three years in terms of the Prescription Act and are no longer enforceable.

Rates and taxes only prescribe after 30 years and electricity, water and gas charges after 3 years. It would seem that, at least at present, sewer and refuse charges also count as ‘rates and taxes’ and will thus only prescribe after 30 years.

If you are a potential buyer your must consult with your attorney who can assist you to include a relevant provision in the Deed of Sale that obliges the Seller to settle all debts due to the relevant municipality, and not just the debt incurred during the two years preceding the date of application for the clearance certificate.

As a Seller you would need to consult with your attorney to discuss any provision in the Deed of Sale which has the effect that you guarantee that all debts due to the municipality are settled.

Also estate agents should take note and ensure that their pro forma contracts cover this scenario and that they inform the parties of the effect of section 118(3) as discussed above.

The liability for old municipal debts against the property is a contentious issue and will evoke strong emotions from Sellers and Buyers alike. It is therefore critical that both parties carefully consider the wording of any Deed of Sale and where necessary discuss the situation with a property specialist before entering into any agreement.

DIE ONGEREGISTREERDE BOUER EN ONTWIKKELAAR – EN DIE HUISVERBRUIKER

DIE ONGEREGISTREERDE BOUER EN ONTWIKKELAAR – EN DIE HUISVERBRUIKER

Daar is vandag talle ongeregistreerde bouers en ontwikkelaars wat in die bedryf van die bou van huise is en dan is daar ook soveel huisverbruikers (hierna verwys as “die Verbruiker”) wat hulself bevind is ‘n posisie waar die bouer of ontwikkelaar van hul huis baie swak gehalte werk lewer. Hierdie artikel beoog om die regsposisie van die verbruiker sowel as die bouer/ontwikkelaar uiteen te sit in die volgende gevalle:

  • Die bouer/ontwikkelaar is nie geregistreer by die NHBRC (hierna verwys as “die Raad”) nie en die gehalte van werk verrig deur die bouer/ontwikkelaar is baie swak en die verbruiker weier om te betaal vir die werk verrig;
  • Die bouer/ontwikkelaar is nie geregistreer by the Raad nie en die gehalte van werk verrig deur die bouer/ontwikkelaar is inderdaad baie goed, maar die verbruiker weier om te betaal vir die werk verrig;
  • Die bouer/ontwikkelaar maak ‘n eis aanhangig teen die verbruiker vir spesifieke nakoming of betaling van die bedrag uitstaande vir dienste gelewer of doen nie, maar die verbuiker loods ‘n aansoek teen die bouer/ontwikkelaar waarin die verbruiker die hof nader vir ‘n bevel wat verklaar dat die bouer/ontwikkelaar nie geregtig is op betaling nie en daarom ook nie geregtig is op enige vorm van retensiereg nie;
  • Die moontlike uitsondering(s) op die 3 gevalle hierbo uiteengesit.

Veronderstel die volgende feitestel as voorbeeld.  X, ‘n ontwikkelaar, sluit ‘n skriftelike bouooreenkoms (hierna verwys as “die ooreenkoms”) met verbruiker Y. X, ten tye van die sluit van die ooreenkoms met Y, is nie geregistreer as ‘n bouer by die Raad nie. X stel Y van die begin af mondelings in kennis dat hy nie geregistreer is as ‘n bouer by die Raad nie en Y blyk geen probleem daarmee te hê nie.  Die ooreenkoms dui verder aan dat X nie self die bouwerk in terme van die ooreenkoms gaan verrig nie, maar dat Z wel die bouwerk sal verrig.  X stel Y van die begin af mondelings in kennis dat Z wel ‘n bouer is wat geregistreer is by die Raad en Y blyk ook geen probleem daarmee te hê nie. Die ooreenkoms tussen X en Y dui aan dat die prys vir die bouwerke te verrig R 2 000 000.00 beloop.  Daar bestaan ‘n aparte ooreenkoms tussen X en Z, maar is dié ooreenkoms irrelevant vir doeleindes van die regsposisie tussen X en Y hierin.  Z begin Y se huis te bou.  X beoog om geen vorderingstrekkings te neem vanaf Y se bouverband tot en met Z ten minste 50% gevorder het met die bou van Y se huis nie en is dit ook so vervat in die ooreenkoms tussen X en Y.  Op ‘n stadium raporteer Z dat Y se huis 50% voltooi is en X stuur ‘n 50% vorderingstrekking aan Y om te teken sodat X dit by Y se bank kan indien vir ‘n vorderingsbetaling.  Y weier om te teken en meen skielik dat die gehalte van bouwerk inderdaad swak is. X meen dat die gehalte bouwerk uitstekend is en stel voor dat Y die Raad betrokke kry om verslag te lewer oor die gehalte van die bouwerk.  Y weier om die Raad betrokke te kry en stuur ‘n aanmaning aan X waarin hy vir X vra om sy erf te ontruim binne 7 (sewe) dae.  Y meen om ‘n nuwe bouer aan te stel om sy huis klaar te bou.  X reageer op Y se aanmaning en versoek betaling van R 1 000 000.00 vir die 50% vordering op Y se huis.  X noem ook verder dat hy ‘n retensiereg het oor die huis van Y en dat hy nie Y se erf sal ontruim tot en met betaling van        R 1 000 000.00 vanaf Y ontvang is nie.  Y weier om te betaal en loods ‘n aansoek waarin Y die hof versoek om te verklaar dat, aangesien X nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie, X nie geregtig is op betaling nie and daarom ook nie oor ‘n retensiereg beskik nie. Y sluit ook ‘n bede in wat vereis dat X sy eiendom ontruim.  X staan Y se aansoek teen en meen dat hy wel geregtis is op betaling en daarom sy retensiereg kan uitoefen.  X vra dat die hof Y se aansoek van die hand wys met koste.

Die vraag ontstaan dan, wat is die regsposisie van X en Y onderskeidelik.

Uit die staanspoor is dit belangrik om te noem dat Y die sterkste regsposisie het in terme van artikel 10(1), (2), (6) & (7) van die  ‘ Housing Consumers Protection Measures – Wet, Wet 95 van 1998’ (hierna verwys as “die HCPM-Wet”) en die Grondwetlike Hof se uitspraak in Cool Ideas 1186 CC v Hubbard and Another (CCT 99/13) [2014] ZACC 16; 2014 (4) SA 474 (CC); 2014 (8) BCLR 869 (CC) (5 June 2014) (hierna verwys as “Cool Ideas”).  Die feitestel hierbo uiteengesit is soortgelyk aan die feite in die Cool Ideas-saak.  Daar is wel een uitsondering in die feitestel hierbo wat later hieronder verder bespreek sal word.

Die HCPM-Wet

Artikel 10(1), (2), (6) en (7) bepaal soos volg:
“10.     Registration of home builders.
(1)       No person shall—
(a)       carry on the business of a home builder; or
(b)        receive any consideration in terms of any agreement with a housing consumer in respect of the sale or construction of a home, unless that person is a registered home builder.
(2)        No home builder shall construct a home unless that home builder is a registered home builder.”

(6)        The Council may, in addition to any other category that the Council may deem appropriate, in the registration of home builders distinguish between—
(a)        home builders themselves having the capacity to undertake the physical construction of homes or to manage the process of the physical construction of homes; and
(b)        home builders who in the normal course need to enter into agreements with other home builders in order to procure the capacity referred to in paragraph (a).
(7)        A home builder registered in terms of subsection (6) (b) shall be obliged, for the purposes of the physical construction of homes, to appoint a home builder registered in terms of subsection (6) (a).

Die beginsels vervat in die Cool Ideas-saak

Volgens die meerderheidsuitspraak in Cool Ideas, gelei deur Majiedt WR, was dit die wetgewer se oogmerk om die huisverbruiker te beskerm toe die wetgewer die HCPM-Wet geskryf het.

Die Grondwetlike Hof in Cool Ideas was spesifiek getaak met die interpretasie van Artikel 10(1)(b) van die HCPM-Wet en met die opweging daarvan teenoor die reg om nie arbitrêr van eiendom ontneem te word nie soos vervat in Artikel 25 van ons Grondwet.

Die kwessies wat dus besleg moes word was:

  • die interpretasie van Artikel 10(1)(b) van die HCPM-Wet;
  • of Cool Ideas arbitrêr ontneem is van eiendom;
  • of die boukontrak geldig bly;
  • of billikheidsoorweegings van toepassing is;
  • ens..

Die meerderheidsuitspraak in Cool Ideas het bevestig dat die korrekte interpretasie van Artikel 10(1) van die HCPM-Wet is dat registrasie deur ‘n bouer by die Raad inderdaad ‘n voorvereiste is vir ‘n bouer om bouwerke te kan verrig of om die besigheid van bouwerke te bedryf.

Versuim om te registreer by die Raad diskwalifiseer die bouer om dan voortaan betaling te eis vir enige werk wat verrig is in terme van ‘n boukontrak.

Die Grondwetlike Hof was tevrede dat Artikel 10 van die HCPM-Wet ‘n regmatige en belangrike statutêre doel wil behaal en dat daar ‘n rationele en proporsionele verband is tussen die statutêre verbod/beperking en die doel daarvan.  Gevolglik is Artikel 10 nie arbitrêr van aard nie en dus geen oortreding van Artikel 25 van die Grondwet nie.

Die Grondwetlike hof het verder beslis dat, in die geval wat die bouer en die verbruiker in ‘n kontrak ingetree het en die bouer nie geregistreer was by die Raad nie, die kontrak wel geldig sal bly staan en nie ongeldig sal wees nie.  Aangesien die HCPM-Wet glad nie spesifieke voorsiening maak dat die kontrak ongeldig behoort te wees in so ‘n geval nie, word aanvaar dat die kontrak wel geldig bly staan maar in konteks van Artikel 10, net regtens uitvoerbaar sal wees vir die huisverbruiker en nie vir die ongeregistreerde bouer nie.  Die kontrak, ingevolge die HCPM-Wet, is wel onwettig en dra ‘n sanksie vir die bouer wat daarin getree het, maar die kontrak is nie ongeldig nie.  Die minderheidsuitspraak het wel hiermee verskil.

Gevolglik het die bouer geen reg om te eis vir enige werk wat gedoen is nie en as gevolg daarvan ook geen vorm van ‘n retensiereg teenoor die huisverbruiker nie.

Die Grondwetlike Hof het ook beslis dat Artikel 10 van die HCPM-Wet baie duidelik is oor die terugslag in die geval wat die bouer nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie en dat die kwantiteit bouwerk verrig deur die bouer, sonder betaling, dus irrelevant is.  Die bouer is nie geregtig op betaling nie en ook nie op ‘n retensiereg nie.

Die regsposisie van X en Y in terme van Artikel 10 van die HCPM-Wet en die Cool Ideas-saak

Dit is gevolglik duidelik dat X geregistreer moes wees as ‘n bouer by die Raad, όf in terme van Subartikel 6(a), όf in terme van Subartikel 6(b) van die HCPM-Wet.

Indien X nie by die Raad geregistreer is nie, sal X gevolglik nie enigsins betaling vanaf Y kan eis nie en ook geen retensiereg kan uitoefen oor Y se eiendom nie.

Hierdie posisie, soos bevestig en bewerkstelling deur die Grondwetlike Hof, sal voortaan bly staan tensy die Grondwetlike Hof weer in die toekoms met dieselfde regsvraag uitgedaag word.

Dit blyk dan ook irrelevant te wees of die gehalte van die bouwerk deur X goed of swak was en dat Y ongeag van die gehalte bouwerk steeds dieselfde regsposisie sal kan inneem.

Is daar uitsonderinge op hierdie regsposisie?

Baie onsekerheid is bewerkstelllig in die Cool ideas uitspraak.  Volgens die Gemenereg is enige onwettige kontrak ongeldig en dus onafdwingbaar maar in hierdie geval, sό volg die uitspraak in die Cool Ideas-saak, is die kontrak steeds geldig en afdwingbaar vir die huisverbruiker alleenlik al is die kontrak (of die intree daarvan) onwettig.

Normaalweg in die geval wat ‘n kontrak onwettig is, sal die kontrak in terme van die Gemenereg as ongeldig en onafdwingbaar beskou word en sal beide partye die reg hê om die hof te nader vir restitusie, indien nodig en moontlik.  Maar ingevolge die Cool Ideas-saak sal dit nie moontlik wees nie aangesien die Grondwetlike Hof van mening is dat die kontrak inderdaad nie ongeldig is nie.

Is daar wel uitsonderings op hierdie regsposisie?  Uit die staanspoor lyk dit nie so nie, behalwe in ekstreme gevalle wat verder hieronder bespreek sal word.

Dit is baie duidelik dat die HCPM-Wet die huisverbruiker in die mark wou beskerm deur die bouer streng te reguleer.  Die reguleering van die bouer is natuurlik grootliks gemik op die kwaliteit van bouwerk wat deur die bouer aan die huisverbruiker verskaf word. Myns insiens was dit nodig vir die wetgewer om so in te gryp as gevolg van die uitbuiting van die huisverbruiker in die verlede en die kwaliteit van die bouwerk van die bouer in die verlede.  Dit blyk dan, ingevolge die Cool Ideas-saak, dat daar letterlik geen hoop is vir die bouer nie. Daarom kan die gevolge vir die bouer verder strek as net ‘n blote loesing oor sy/haar swak gehalte bouwerk. Dit is uiters belangrik dat die bouer wat in die mark is of wat die mark betree, homself/haarself baie goed vertroud maak met die HCPM-Wet en wat die nagevolge is van die versuim om te registreer by die Raad as ‘n bouer, όf in terme van Subartikel 6(a), όf in terms van Subartikel 6(b) van die HCPM-Wet.

Maar wat van die geval waar dit blyk dat Y al die tyd X wou uitbyt?  Verdonderstel jouself dat Y nie net geweet het dat X nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie, maar ook presies geweet het wat die gevolge vir X sal wees omdat hy nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie.  Alle feite dui later daarop dat Y te alle tye geweet het wat ons regsisteem bepaal oor die bouer wat nie geregistreer is by die Raad nie, dat X geen betaling sal kan eis nie en ook geen retensiereg sal hê nie. Terwyl Y heeltemal bewus was van hierdie posisie, het Y nietemin in ooreenkoms getree met X vir die bou van Y se huis.  Y het homself dus ten volle vereenselwig met die nagevolge vir X en ook so ver gegaan as om te beplan dat hy, ten tye van X se eerste trekking vir 50% vordering, nie die trekking sal goedkeer nie en ook X sal probeer verwyder van sy grond af teen die agtergrond van ‘n valse ‘swak gehalte bouwerk-klagte’ by die Raad.  Dit blyk ook verder dat X, wetend dat ‘n bouer geregistreer moet wees by die Raad, nie bewus was van die feit dat hy nie net bloot ‘n geregistreerde bouer (Z) kon aanstel en nie self dan hoef te geregistreer by die Raad nie.  Al is dit uiteraard baie duidelik dat Y spesifiek vir X wou uitbyt in hierdie situasie, blyk dit dat hierdie posisie nog nie spesifiek getoets is deur ons howe nie.  Die vraag is of X wel ‘n remedie sal hê in hierdie spesifieke geval.  Óf, sal die posisie soos vervat in die Cool Ideas­-saak steeds heers?

Wat van die ou gemeenregtelike beginsel van in pari delicto potior est conditio defendentis (hierna verwys as “die in pari delicto-beginsel”)?  Alhoewel hierdie ‘n our gemeenregtelike beginsel is was baie min gebruik word in ons hedendaagse regsisteem, is die beginsel nog lank nie koud nie. Die in pari delicto-beginsel verwys daarna dat waar twee of meer partye gelyk deelneem of deelgeneem het in ‘n onregmatige of onwettige daad (wat die intree van ‘n onwettige kontrak insluit), die hof, teen die agtergrond van billikheids-en gelykheidsoorwegings, kan weier om tot die redding te kom van een party ten koste van die ander party/partye.

Dit volg, in lig van die feitestel van X en Y hierbo, dat die kontrak tussen X en Y ongeldig behoort te wees in terme van die gemenereg op die basis dat die kontrak teen die publieke belang is.  Die Gemenereg was wel nie in oorweging gebring in die Cool Ideas-saak nie, behalwe in die minderheidsuitspraak waar die minderheid homself beperk het tot die gelidgheid van die ooreenkoms. Die Grondwetlike Hof, in die Cool Ideas-saak het wel geen ag geneem aan die in pari delicto­-beginsel nie.  Die in pari delicto-beginsel veronderstel dat die hof behoort ag te gee aan die beginsel van ‘eenvoudige/basiese geregtigheid tussen man en man’ en mag dit dan wees dat die hof, met inagneming van gelykheids-en billikheidsoorwegings en spesiek Artikel 9 en Artikel 25 van ons Grondwet, nie gehoor sal gee aan die bedes van Y nie en daarom ook nie tot Y se redding sal kom tot nadeel van X nie.

Sou die hof wel bevind dat die hof nie tot die redding van Y kan kom nie, is dit steeds onseker wat die hof moontlik in die alternatief sal beveel of kan beveel.  X is natuurlik meer as welkom in hierdie geval om ‘n teenaansoek te loods vir restitusie en mag die hof dalk die teenaansoek toestaan om sodoende uiting te gee aan X en Y en om sodoende regverdigheid te laat geskied tussen X en Y.  Aangesien restitusie ook tog moeilik bewerkstellig sal kan word tussen X en Y, plaas dit X en Y in ‘n beter posisie om die terme van restitusie spesifiek te bepaal in ‘n skikkingsooreenkoms of om op enige ander terme te skik wat beide partye sal pas.

Neem wel kennis!

Hierdie artikel is net gefokus op die siviele aard van die regsposisie tussen X en Y, en neem nie spesifiek die kriminele aard daarvan in ag nie.

X kan byvoorbeeld nogsteeds vervolg word in terms van Artikel 21 van die HCPM-Wet ongeag wat die uitkoms is van die siviele aangeleentheid tussen X en Y.

Die in pari delicto-beginsel is ook nie so maklik om te opper nie en is dit ook baie moeilik om te bewys dat die party betrokke wel in pari delicto is.  Daarom, as X meen om die in pari delicto-beginsel te opper, is dit onsettend belangrik dat X homself goed vegewis met die beginsel en die bestaande regspraak wat met die beginsel handel, inter alia die volgende sake:

  • BHYAT’S DEPARTMENTAL STORE (PTY) LTD v DORKLERK INVESTMENTS (PTY) LTD 1975 (4) SA 881 (A);
  • HENRY v BRANFIELD 1996 (1) SA 244 (D);
  • JORDAN AND ANOTHER v PENMILL INVESTMENTS CC AND ANOTHER 1991 (2) SA 430 (E);
  • KELLY v WRIGHT; KELLY v KOK 1948 (3) SA 522 (A);
  • MAMOOJEE v AKOO 1947 (4) SA 733 (N);
  • MASEKO v MASEKO 1992 (3) SA 190 (W);
  • PARBHOO NO v SPILG 1990 (2) SA 398 (W);
  • ROOTES (CENTRAL AFRICA) (PVT) LTD v MUNDAWARARA AND ANOTHER 1973 (2) SA 447 (R);
  • VAN STADEN v PRINSLOO 1947 (4) SA 842 (T);
  • VISSER EN ‘N ANDER v ROUSSEAU EN ANDERE NNO 1990 (1) SA 139 (A).

 

Attorney George Kleynhans

Attorney George Kleynhans

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Deceased estates – disputes

disputes over a deceased relative’s estate
22 May 2018
 

If someone leaves a sizeable estate behind, it may cause conflict among the possible heirs. The help of an attorney, when settling an estate after a death, can avoid unnecessary troubles.

The Administration of Estates Act, 1965, determines what must happen with an estate after a person’s death. There are certain steps that should be taken to ensure the process is legal. However, if the estate is worth a lot of money or the deceased has children, then it is a good idea to seek the assistance of an attorney, as family disputes and debts of the deceased can be confusing. In order to do this an executor will be appointed to act on behalf of the estate.

Finding the will of a deceased relative

If the deceased person left a will the first thing to do is find it. If they did not tell you beforehand where their will was, you can try calling the probate court in their district or the office of the Master of the High Court to check if they have a copy of the will. Other places to call would be the deceased’s life insurance company, bank or lawyer. Otherwise, the deceased might have left a copy of it somewhere secure in their home.

Who is the executor?

An executor is the person appointed to handle the process of settling the estate. The executor will either be mentioned in the will of the deceased or appointed by the Master of the High Court. The Master will ultimately decide who will take the role of executor. If the chosen executor doesn’t know how to handle the estate or is unfamiliar with the legal procedure, he or she can go to a lawyer for help. Once the executor has been chosen, the Master will give them “Letters of Executorship”, which will give only them the authority to handle the estate.

What does the executor need to do?

The executor has several responsibilities such as arranging the valuation of the estate’s property and assets. They will also be responsible for contacting and dealing with all the beneficiaries.

Some other responsibilities of the executor include:

•    Arranging provisional payments for the family’s immediate needs.
•    Opening a bank account for the estate and depositing the estates money in it.
•    Paying all the necessary estate duties.

It’s important that any person who wants to act on behalf of the deceased person’s estate have the Letters of Executorship. If not, their actions would be considered illegal. This also applies to the spouse of the deceased person. This eliminates the possibility of several different family members trying to influence the estate’s dealings. The executor will also decide how the assets will be divided between the heirs and if any or all assets need to be sold. If a will is in place the executor will base his/her decisions on it.

Eventually, the executor will prepare a liquidation and distribution account. This would include what they intend to do with all the assets left after expenses. This account would be delivered to the Master, who will check to see if the executor’s actions reflect the will of the deceased and that all legal requirements have been fulfilled.

Important things to keep in mind?

The Master of the High Court should be notified of the deceased person’s estate not later than 14 days after the death. According to the Department of Justice, the death of anyone who owned property in South Africa must be reported to the Master, whether or not they died in the country.

All estates that exceed R50 000 should be reported to the Master of the High Court directly because magistrate’s offices have limited jurisdiction. If reported to the magistrate’s office, estates will usually be referred to the Master.

References

The Department of Justice and Constitutional Development. 2012. “Reporting the estate of the deceased”. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/services/report-estate.html/ on 11/05/2016.

Administration of Estates Act 66 of 1965. Accessed from: http://www.justice.gov.za/ on 11/05/2016.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

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LATEST CAS 50/02/2018 SAPS SILVERTON

 

Forged signatures and fraud alleged as Hawks and NPA probe disputed will. 

The late Akbar Ali Ayob was a respected accountant and business advisor in Polokwane, the sort of man one would expect to leave his affairs in impeccable order. But his sudden death from a heartattack on 4 July 2013 triggered a bitter court battle over his estate which continues to this day – in the process, putting the reputations of several pillars of the local establishment on the line.

Contenders for the estate are, on one hand, his life-partner of 30 years Hilda Watkins and their three children (two at university, the youngest in matric) and on the other, are the deceased’s brother and sister, Mohamed and Halima Ayob. Mohamed is the imam of a local mosque; Hilda is a shop assistant working at one of the businesses owned by Akbar.

Although Ayob and his family lived a frugal and simple lifestyle, Hilda and the three children were well taken care of and the children received a good education. During his career as an accountant, Ayob accumulated a considerable fortune through a number of astute business ventures and investments in shares, unit trusts and properties. The exact value of the estate has yet to be disclosed due to the pending civil and criminal cases but is expected to amount to several million rand.

 

Magistrate to face criminal charges

Police confirmed that a case of fraud and misrepresentation of forged documents, allegedly involving a local magistrate, is being investigated. The magistrate recently presided over the bail application in a murder case which has sent shockwaves through the city.
The magistrate, who cannot be named as he has not officially been charged nor appeared in court, was allegedly involved in the fraudulent undersigning of a last will and testament of a local businessman who died in July 2013.
A relative of the deceased who presented Polokwane Observer with documentation last week confirmed that the family has opened a case of fraud at the Polokwane Police Station after a handwriting expert in the South African Police Service classified the signature on the testament to have been forged and a High Court ordered that the testament be declared null and void. The magistrate was allegedly appointed in 2013 as executor of the will which named the deceased’s brother and sister as only beneficiaries.
Other family members disputed the validity of the testament and approached the courts demanding that it be declared null and void with costs to the respondents in the case.
The complainants also approached a handwriting expert who was furnished with a copy of the testament allegedly signed by the deceased on 29 June 2013 six days before his death. In his report the expert stated that he also received specimen signatures of the deceased from the family in the form of hospital receipts, a college registration contract, security job card, security agreement and bank documents originally signed by the deceased.
“The will contains two disputed signatures of the testator. The original will was examined by me on 27 September 2013. I was requested to examine the disputed signatures of the deceased on the will and compare it with the known specimen,” the report stated.
In the opinion of the handwriting expert and based on all the discovered factual physical evidence he reported: “I reached a qualified and conclusive opinion. The disputed signatures of the deceased on the will respectively were in fact not created (beyond any reasonable doubt) by the author of the specimen signatures and are therefore all classified as forgeries.”
After the matter came before court on several occasions and the court heard the handwriting expert’s evidence, the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria ruled that the testament be suspended on 16 February this year which then left the family with no choice but to open a case of fraud against the magistrate.
Polokwane Police Head of Communications, Ntobeng Phala confirmed that the case of fraud and misrepresentation of forged documents is under investigation. “The investigating officer is still obtaining statements from involved parties. As soon as the investigation is complete, the docket will be sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a decision,” he said.

 

 

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