In two separate incidents over the past months officials of SANRAL and officials of eThekwini Municipality took the law into their own hands and started removing advertising structures belonging to two outdoor companies. These illicit removals were recently stopped by the courts.
As long ago as 2002 a full bench of the KZN High Court ruled that city officials may not remove advertising structures without a court order. In the case of African Billboard Advertising (Pty) Ltd v North and South Central Local Councils, Durban the High Court ruled that:
“The principle applies equally to the rights of public bodies such as municipalities or provincial councils or any similar bodies, and even to State Departments. Individual members of a State Department normally cannot, in the interest of their Department, take the law into their own hands and enforce State rights without the State having made use of the assistance of its judicial Department in order to help it to acquire possession of property to which the State may be entitled.”
In December 2017 officials of the eThekwini Municipality took the law into their own hands and started removing billboards of Strawberry without a court order. This was despite an interdict awarded to Strawberry prior to the removal. eThekwini went back to court to have the interdict discharged without notifying Strawberry and then continue with the removal before they were interdicted again on 23 December where the court granted a temporary order. On 19 February 2018, the matter was again before the court and the interdict was made permanent. The said billboards were all on Provincial Roads and was installed in terms of approvals granted by the KZN Provincial Government.
In 2018 SANRAL followed the same unlawful behaviour where they start braking down billboards on bridges that belong to the municipality of Ekurhuleni who also approved the said advertising structures. The outdoor company was Jinja Outdoor who obtained an urgent temporary interdict against SANRAL on Saturday 3 February 2018 in the South Gauteng High Court.
There are more complex legal issues at stake like jurisdiction etc but this type of behaviour will not be tolerated by the courts. Both parties indicated that they have suffered substantial damages to their structures as well as the loss of advertising revenue and they are obtaining legal advice with the view of suing the state entities for damages. If such damages are to be granted by court it would be borne by the us, the taxpayers.