Appointment of board members to long-delayed Mpumalanga Tribunal finally underway

SAPOA CEO Neil Gopal

The long-delayed appointment of board members to the Mpumalanga Services Appeal Tribunal is finally underway, after the matter was escalated to the Public Protector by the SA Property Owners Association (SAPOA).

A Services Appeal Tribunal allows property developers to appeal decisions made by municipalities and obtain independent resolution; it is critical to the objective resolution of disputes between developers and municipalities.

“The Public Protector’s office has advised us that the process of appointment is underway, with a deadline for nominations set at August 12, 2014,” says SAPOA CEO Neil Gopal.

The provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) is coordinating the process, while the Mpumalanga MEC will make the final appointments.

Invitations for nominations were published in local media last month. SAPOA has been instrumental in achieving resolution in this situation.

When assurances from the Province to SAPOA that a Tribunal would be appointed by the end of November 2013 were not honoured, SAPOA escalated the matter to the Office of the Public Protector. In March, the Public Protector launched an investigation.

In April, the Mpumalanga Department of Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Administration responded that the Tribunal is to be appointed shortly, after internal departmental restructuring caused delays.

“We recognise that there will be challenges to getting the Tribunal up and running in the short-term, but we applaud the progress being made now,” adds Gopal.

Indeed, early indications are that while nominations are being received, the range of professions the Tribunal requires – from engineers, to auditors and accountants – is not yet being met.

SAPOA was alerted to the situation in Mpumalanga last year when local members pointed out that there has been no Tribunal in place for over three years, despite it being provided for in Section 124 of the Town Planning and Township Ordinance 1986.

“We are very encouraged by the news that the Mpumalanga Government is in the process of appointing the Tribunal members so that the Tribunal can get up and running and deal with unresolved servicing matters,” says James Aling, Chairperson of the Regional SAPOA branch in Mpumalanga.

“Establishing the Tribunal will result in unlocking and stimulating development, investment and job creation. This is part of the Government’s key function of creating an enabling environment for investment and development and we are pleased that we have been able to get Government commitment to set up the Tribunal,” he adds.