“Our situation is not because of incompetence, but because our customers are not paying us,” says a City spokesperson.
- The City of Tshwane has a debtors book of R17 billion and is disconnecting services of those who do not pay.
- Services have been disconnected at the luxury Sheraton Hotel near the Union Buildings and some shopping centres, while state-owned arms manufacturer Denel is next on the list.
- Next week the City plans to target non-paying residential complexes and estates.
The City of Tshwane says it “mean[s] business” in taking drastic steps against debtors who are in arrears, including government departments, businesses and residential customers.
“We mean business. Make arrangements to pay your account before you find yourself in the dark,” the City warned on social media on Wednesday, shortly before it disconnected electricity supply at the 5-star Sheraton Hotel, just a stone’s throw from the Union Buildings. The water supply is currently still connected.
The Department of Water and Sanitation also confirmed in a statement that power supply to its buildings was disconnected on Wednesday.
“The Department is in consultation with the Department of Public Works to ensure that power is reconnected urgently. We wish to assure the public that no services have been disrupted by the disconnection. This matter must be resolved urgently between Public Works and the City of Tshwane,” said department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau.
When Fin24 spoke to a City spokesperson just after 15:00 on Wednesday afternoon, he said they were on their way to state-owned arms manufacturer Denel to turn off services due to a debt of R2.2 million.
The hotel has accumulated a debt of R23 million in rates and taxes, as well as for water and electricity, during the coronavirus pandemic over the past two years. The hotel’s legal representative has been in contact with the City to try to come to an agreement.
Other disconnections by the City so far include water disconnected at the Lyttelton Shopping Centre, which owes R750 000; the Blue Beacon commercial property in Swartkop, which owes R2.3 million; and the Department of Infrastructure Development, which owes R260 million in rates and services.
The City has a list of 47 buildings and commercial properties where water and electricity will be disconnected unless owners make payments in the coming days.
‘The city can grind to a halt’
According to City spokesperson Selby Bokaba, the City has tried to engage with its customers who owe money and sent out notices. Bokaba said disconnecting their services has become a last resort for the City, which needs to be sure it has funds, not only to buy water and electricity for Tswhane, but to pay staff salaries and service providers.
“If staff do not get paid, they will not come to work and the city can grind to a halt,” said Bokaba.
“Some try to emotionally blackmail us by saying we will put people out of jobs by cutting services. But we are also a service provider and we cannot pay our debts if our customers do not pay us. We have a debtors book of over R17 billion,” said Bokaba. “Next week we will go into residential complexes and estates.”
Asked why the City has allowed such huge debts to build up, he said perhaps the City has been too lenient in the past.
“We were relying on the conscience of people and engaging in a collegial manner, hoping they would understand our own dire straits at the municipality. We should not have allowed the debtors book to balloon to R17 billion,” he said.
“People should have made an effort to contact us about what they owe. Our situation is not because of incompetence, but because our customers are not paying us.”
This article was updated at 18:40 on Wednesday to include comment from the Dept of Water and Sanitation.
Source by www.news24.com