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Ekurhuleni will help cash-strapped residents fix billing problems: mayor

Residents seek clarity from members of the Thembisa Community Forum after the mayor's address.
Residents seek clarity from members of the Thembisa Community Forum after the mayor's address.
Image: Phathu Luvhengo

Ekurhuleni is introducing a debt relief plan to help historically indebted residents and reviewing its threshold for indigent applications.

While continuing to provide 50kW free electricity units, the metro will also engage provincial and national government for a solution to supply more free basic units, mayor Tania Campbell told residents at a mass meeting on Friday.

Campbell, who was responding to a memorandum by Thembisa residents, said she understood the past few months have not been easy for most residents, given the petrol price hikes, electricity price increases and loss of jobs during the Covid-19 period.

“We have identified measures that are being implemented with immediate effect while some [solutions] will be a long-term process. Other issues that are a bit complex will receive more attention on an ongoing basis.

“We are pleased electricity has been restored within most parts of Thembisa after the destruction of the substation a few days ago. This is the first step we took to restore services to the people,” she said.

She indicated the municipality has developed an aggressive debt rehabilitation programme that will assist residents with historic debts.

“We will provide you with 50% write-off of debts in excess of one year on date of application and approval inclusive of rates, service charges, interests and other costs.”

She said this would be available to qualifying residents from this month until March 31 next year.

Campbell said she was aware many residents have highlighted historic debt and incorrect billing hanging over them. “This needs to be rectified immediately. We want to assure you the issue of the incorrect billing system will be resolved,” she said to applause from residents in the stadium.

“We will also ensure that bills for water, sanitation, taxes and rates are separated from the electricity bill. This means if someone is not paying their rates, they won’t cut their electricity,” said Thembisa Community Forum spokesperson Xolani Mnisi.

He was happy some decisions taken will help residents as a result of the mayor’s response to complaints. “It showed initiative from their side. They are willing to deal with matters, they are willing to review some policies so t they become pro-poor,” he said.

Campbell said the municipality was reviewing its indigent policy to ensure qualifying residents are being assisted.

“The policy will be gazetted for public comments. In the meantime we will be processing our resolves to stop disconnections and declines of indigent applications,” she said.

The municipality will host a two-week open day session with the finance, health and social development departments to assist residents with indigent applications.

Tariffs will be looked at case by case to ensure the correct tariff applies.

Some Thembisa residents were sceptical.

Unemployed mother of one Santo Mathiba, 50, who lives with her cousin, complained that the municipality’s statements are marred with discrepancies.

They mix up everything in one statement. If you don’t have money to settle your water bill in full, they cut your electricity. I am using a candle at home. They want R3,000. I don’t work. Where will I get the money?
Thembisa resident Santo Mathiba, 50

She said she has been living in the dark for the past few weeks after the municipality disconnected their electricity.

“She [Campbell] just arrived at the council. What about the last one who couldn’t solve our problems? We can’t turn on the electric heater. We are using a paraffin heater to stay warm,” she said.

Mathiba said they strive to minimise their use of electricity but when they go to the municipal customer centre to pay for services, if they can’t afford to settle the monthly outstanding balance the municipality disconnects them.

“They mix up everything in one statement. If you don’t have money to settle your water bill in full, they cut your electricity. I am using a candle at home. They want R3,000. I don’t work. Where will I get the money?”

She said the mayor should return to the community within a month and give feedback on their grievances to “show us that she has fixed our problems”.

Sibongile Mahlangu, 58, who lives with her seven children, said she relied on her car tyre replacement and fitment business for income.

She said without others employed in her home, a large portion of the money generated from the business is used to pay municipal bills.

“When you go to the customer centre to inquire about your monthly statement, they tell you there is a mistake and that they will solve it, but within two weeks they cut your electricity,” she said.

She said last week she received a statement that shocked her.

“I am used to paying R1,800 or close to R2,000 but they say I must pay R5,000. How is that possible? Enough is enough. We are tired here in Thembisa.”

Thembisa resident Trevor Kamoto, 30, believes the mayor should have discussed the solutions in more detail.
Thembisa resident Trevor Kamoto, 30, believes the mayor should have discussed the solutions in more detail.
Image: Phathu Luvhengo

Trevor Kamoto, 30, who told TimesLIVE he is one of the community’s leaders, was dismissive: “The mayor didn’t come here to speak to the people of Thembisa. She came here to give a press briefing.

“She says she is addressing our issues but failed to go into the depth of the problems.”

TimesLIVE

 


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