During the period of Wednesday, 5 February to Friday, 7 February employees of the Mkhondo Local Municipality paid a visit to the business owners of Mkhondo and left them worried and totally confused.
Various officials of the Mkhondo Local Municipality, Mkhondo Fire and Rescue Unit and the Mkhondo Traffic Department called on several businesses in Mkhondo. During this, business owners were asked to provide certain documentation to the Mkhondo Local Municipality. A Business Licence was also requested and if they could not comply, the business’s electricity was switched off with immediate effect and notified that it would not be switched back on until the outstanding fees were paid and the licence was up to date.
After coming in contact with a majority of the business owners who were negatively influenced by this operation, it was concluded that approximately 95% of them didn’t even know that this specific licence was necessary to conduct business.
What is strange is that some of the business owners then had to pay an outstanding fee for the last three years, and some had to pay for five years, even though none of them had ever taken out the said licence.
During a phone call with a manager of one of the departments of the Mkhondo Local Municipality, he stated that officials visit businesses on a regular basis to ensure that all of the necessary documents and licences are up to date. Business owners on the other hand, stated that they have never been visited by employees of the Mkhondo Local Municipality regarding this matter. If businesses were ever visited, surely the MLM would have proof, such as a book that was signed or record warnings that were issued towards businesses who did not possess the correct documentation.
There was also no warning or notification sent out by the MLM, to prepare businesses and give them the opportunity to obtain this licence. The business owners who we contacted would have had no problem complying with the requirements from the MLM, if they were ever notified about it.
When visiting one specific business, the owner of the business presented the officials with a Gert Sibande District Certificate for dealing in food and the transportation of food. This certificate was accepted and the official even requested a copy of the said certificate, to be able to show it to other businesses (who do not deal in the transportation, preparing or selling of food), what the document looks like. It seems that the officials themselves were not sure of what they were looking for.
The mannerism in which some of the officials treated several business owners and staff was completely uncalled for and people feel personally victimized through this act.
The Excelsior News contacted the Mkhondo Local Municipality for their feedback on the issue, but at the time of print, they had still not replied. Questions were sent to them on Tuesday, 11 February. We urge them to publish an official notice, to clarify these uncertainties about the Mkhondo Local Municipality Business Licence, including:
- When was the law stating that businesses in Mkhondo need a licence from the Mkhondo Local Municipality to operate, gazetted?
- Where can this licence be taken out, for how long is it valid and how much does it cost?
- What do business owners receive in return for paying the fees? (Certificate, receipt?)
It is still unsure if the manner in which this visit by officials of the MLM was conducted, was legal or not, but one thing is for sure, the way in which it was handled was totally unprofessional.