Pay if not – Johannesburg warning after power cuts in Pretoria

The DA-run City of Johannesburg may soon start cutting off electricity and water to customers with unpaid bills for municipal services, The Sunday Times reports.

The newspaper has a spreadsheet detailing the R556 million debt owed by the ANC-led national and provincial governments.

Department of Health hospitals account for more than half and include:

  • Charlotte Maxeke Hospital — Over R200 million
  • Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – Over R66 Million
  • Helen Joseph Hospital — Over R44 million

Mayor of Joburg, Mpho Phalatse, confirmed that the metro had written a letter to the Ministry of Public Works about the matter.

“Occupants of these buildings – national government departments, agencies and entities – have received physical pre-termination notices which are part of our Department of Revenue’s credit control measures, with the Public Works Department receiving the same notices. via email,” Phalatse said.

“We hire them as delinquent ratepayers by following city regulations,” Phalatse said.

“That said, we have been too patient with those who ignore our demands, whether government, business or residents.”

“The time for a soft approach with those who refuse to pay is over,” she added.

Mpho Phalatse (centre), Mayor of the City of Johannesburg

Phalatse’s stern warning comes after a week in which the city of Tshwane collected R150 million in unpaid bills from defaulting customers it had cut or threatened to cut.

Tshwane’s acting city manager, Mmaseabata Mutlaneng, told The Sunday Times that officials had visited around 400 buildings and disconnected half of them, which were owed around 500 million rand.

These also included government departments such as the Department of Infrastructure Development which owed R245 million, the Department of Public Works with a bill of R110 million and the Department of Higher Education and Training with R2.1 million.

Tshwane Mayor Randall Williams said town debtors owe the municipality an unsustainable debt 17 billion rand.

“Residential customers owe the city around R8 billion, businesses [owe] 4 billion rand and ministries and embassies owe 1.3 billion rand. The city is now waging a campaign to disconnect services to all defaulters,” Williams said.

“Political demagoguery”

But several of the entities criticized the city’s heavy-handed approach.

In a statement, the University of Pretoria (UP) said the actions amounted to “political grandstanding”.

According to Metro, the UP High Performance Center owed him R34 million. UP paid its disputed bill shortly before the Metro was able to halt its services.

UP criticized the city’s approach and said it had been trying to resolve the billing for months.

“Our proactive attempts to engage with the city have been ignored,” the university said.

“Despite this, we have agreed to pay the alleged unpaid amount, pending the outcome of the litigation.”

The university said it made an immediate payment to avoid any disruptions, although it did not receive advance notice or a detailed account, which it requested from the board months ago.

“Fortunately, the university was able to pay the amount because the money had been set aside when we learned of the disagreement last year,” the university said.

The Club Crossing shopping centre, one of the private properties closed during the campaign, obtained an order from the North Gauteng High Court on Friday ordering the Metro to reconnect its services.

According to News24the court said that the municipality and the city manager were prohibited from disconnecting or interrupting the electricity or water supply to the premises until they had issued accounts to the center’s property management in accordance with to the Municipal Property Rates Act.

It also gave management a fair opportunity to object to any charge in the accounts. The standard dispute process should be followed and exhausted in the event of such objections.

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