2006-10-15 : City's Sheriff battles to serve debt papers

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2006-10-15 : City's Sheriff battles to serve debt papers

Postby GOSA » Wed, 2006-10-18 14:10

City's Sheriff battles to serve debt papers on 'shielded' MPs

October 15, 2006 Edition 1

Chiara Carter

THE sheriff of Cape Town is drowning in a sea of unserved subpoenas and summons for MPs and government officials at parliament. And, judging from the large number of debt-related demands, many officials and MPs in turn, are battling to keep their heads above water.

The sheriff, Hennie Hurter, said: "There are a stack of these things, but we battle to get to serve them."

The papers piling up in the sheriff's office - between 20 and 30 a month - rrelate to matters ranging from garnishee orders for deductions from salaries to maintenance claims and unpaid debts.

The targets of the sheriff's unwelcome attentions include Chief Whip Mbulelo Goniwe, whom Hurter has unsuccessfully tried to subpoena for a maintenance hearing in the Eastern Cape. But Goniwe , and the others are shielded by parliamentary privilege.

The sheriff, whose offices are a stone's throw from parliament, has to have permission from the presiding officers to serve papers within the parliamentary precincts.

Each week Hurter's office sends letters to parliament's legal advisers with copies of the documents they intend serving to get permission to enter. "Sometime we get a yes - especially if it is a garnishee order aimed at an employer who must make deductions from someone's salary. Aside from Goniwe, we've mostly had co-operation from Parliament this year on maintenance related matters. But on the other matters we often are either ignored or refused.

According to many, a large number of MPs and officials struggle to make it through the month on their salaries.

This situation is often compounded by their having to do constituency work and those new to the lifestyle falling into a debt-trap.

It has been alleged that National Assembly speaker Baleka Mbete has been blocking the sheriff's attempts to subpoena Goniwe for a maintenance hearing. Goniwe said he refused to comment on a "private, family matter", but the issue is to be raised in parliament by the DA next week.

Lulamile Mapholoba, political adviser to Mbete, said the speaker's office was not aware of any attempt to summons Goniwe in parliament's precincts.
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