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Hundreds have power cut

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It is unfair that councillors, politicians, big businesses and government departments are allowed to rack up huge unpaid bills and yet their electricity is not cut

QUESTIONS: Hundreds of residents queued at the municipal offices collection department on Friday after their electricity supply was cut. Some have bills running into hundreds of thousands of rand (right). Picture: Soraya Crowie

HUNDREDS of city residents queued at the Sol Plaatje municipal offices after their electricity supply was cut as from November 1 due to outstanding payments.

Some individuals who spent Friday morning trying to get their electricity reconnected stated that their accounts had accumulated to over R240 000.

“We live in RDP houses, are unemployed and are caring for small children in the house. How are our children, who are busy writing exams, supposed to study in the dark?

“We will pay our arrears if the ANC provincial chairperson, Zamani Saul, settles his account of R145 000. It is unfair that councillors, politicians, big businesses and government departments are allowed to rack up huge unpaid bills and yet their electricity is not cut off.”

Cecilia Mohale, 62, stated that her pension amounted to R1 700, which was not sufficient to cover the reconnection fee of R3 500.

“I am caring for my child and grandchild. I will not even have money to buy food for the month. Even though my husband passed away the outstanding account of R11 114 has not been written off and I do not have the means to repay it.”

Another resident said that she was unable to receive indigent status after her application was declined seven times.

Galima Vaarland from Roodepan pointed out that she only had R500 to reconnect her power.

“They are refusing to reconnect as they want me to pay R3 500 while my only income is my monthly pension. How are we expected to live? We were not given prior notice that our electricity would be cut.”

Sol Plaatje executive mayor Pula Thabane indicated that he would intervene in facilitating payment arrangements for those in arrears.

“No one talked to me about it. I will call the directors in on Monday (today) to inform me what is going on. Many officials are currently on study leave as they are writing exams.”

Thabane added that council would need to convene as a matter of urgency to determine how the shortfall in the budget, due to the withdrawal of the R260 basic electricity levy, would be raised.

The communications manager at Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, explained that the electricity cuts were being implemented according to council policy.

“No action has been taken outside the scope of an approved recovery plan. It has nothing to do with the R260 electricity levy. The power of those in arrears has been cut before in order to encourage payment on overdue accounts. It is not something new.”

Matsie stated that outstanding payments owed by commercial users, including business, government departments and bulk users, were being dealt with separately.

“There have been a number of engagements and letters have been issued. Their supply will also be cut if they do not comply. We have done it in the past.”

Matsie indicated that the municipality was being placed under financial strain due to increasing debts and non-payment.

“The reconnection fee is charged based on a percentage of the total outstanding balance. Options such as incentive payments as well as a rebate on the interest charged if the full outstanding amount is paid are offered.”