Cato Ridge - Citing possible losses of R2.5 million a day if its business was forced to close, a Cato Ridge meat supply company dashed to court last week to prevent the eThekwini municipality from cutting off its water supply.
Frey’s Food Brands, which specialises in pork products, along with its landlord Frey’s Farms, brought an urgent application against the municipality in the Durban High Court.
Frey’s Food Brands operates its business on land rented from Frey’s Farms. Both companies were seeking an interdict to prevent the stoppage of water to three properties in Cato Ridge, saying that the municipality wanted them to pay for “water they did not consume”.
The municipality had threatened to cut off the water supply owing to an outstanding bill of R11.8m.
Last week, the matter was adjourned indefinitely with an order taken by consent that Frey’s Farms pay the city the outstanding amount and the city undertaking not to disconnect the water if the bill was paid.
In court papers, Frey’s Farms said it had leased a portion of properties in 2003 from the company Crafcor Cato Ridge – which was also cited as a respondent in the case – and then sublet it to Frey’s Food Brands.
Food Brands paid Crafcor for water consumed by it.
In January, Frey’s Farms bought the properties from Crafcor and started operating the abattoir.
Frey’s Food Brands director Erasmus Mabuya said, in an affidavit, that at the time of the sale, Frey’s Farms was told that Crafcor owed R5m to the municipality for the water bill.
“It came as a surprise that it was almost R12m. The second respondent (Crafcor) does not understand how this amount was computed and does not admit indebtedness (for it).”
In a replying affidavit, the city’s credit control manager Khanyisile Gama said the municipality had no knowledge of the arrangement between Crafcor, Frey’s Farms and Frey’s Food Brands.
Gama said Crafcor had taken the city to court in 2010 to prevent the termination of its water supply over an outstanding bill of R5m, but that application was withdrawn. The R5m had since “grown” to R11.8m because of interest, penalties and charges, she said.
She denied the municipality was compelling Frey’s Food Brands to pay.
“The irreparable harm is a result of (Crafcor’s) failure to pay the arrears.” - The Mercury