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‘Municipality not leaving residents in the dark’

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Residents are called upon to make the necessary arrangements should they be unable to make their payments.

TIMEOUS information on payment arrangements for electricity due to financial difficulties created by the Covid-19 pandemic and national lockdown has been conveyed to residents by the Dawid Kruiper Municipality.

This is according to the local authority’s chief financial officer (CFO), Gaylene Schreiner, and mayor, Michael Segede, who dismissed statements made by the DA in the Northern Cape that the municipality was unfairly cutting the electricity of some residents in Upington.

Schreiner said that notices and messages were sent out to residents, calling on them to make the necessary arrangements should they be unable to make their payments.

“When the president made the announcement on the lockdown, we realised that many people and businesses would be affected by it. We then immediately sent SMSes to residents and businesses as well as placed messages on our social media platforms to inform people that they could approach the municipality in order to reach a common ground regarding the payment of their accounts,” said Schreiner yesterday.

“We explained that clients who were experiencing problems with payment due to Covid-19 could communicate that to the municipality. They were requested to bring their bank statements, municipal accounts and payslips.

“The majority of requests we have received during this time were from guest houses and clothing stores. Those entities have indicated that they can only pay a certain amount on their account. We agreed, as we know and can see that these businesses were forced to remain closed during the lockdown. We also took into account that the people employed at these businesses are residents in the town and are also affected.”

Schreiner said that they took directive from the client as to how much they were able to pay.

“We cannot tell the client how much they must pay. One has to bear in mind that there are some people who are self-employed and are now getting no income from their businesses due to the coronavirus. People do, however, have to inform us about their challenges so we can make arrangements.”

Segede said that the statement issued by the DA was “irresponsible and incorrect”.

“The DA said that we have taken a blanket approach in switching off people’s electricity, which is not true. We do not cut the electricity of indigent people. We have also not shown anyone away who came to make an arrangement with regards to payment.”

He pointed out that the municipality was also affected by the coronavirus pandemic, as it also had to keep up its payments to its creditors.

“Treasury has announced that there is no bail-out for municipalities who fail to pay their accounts. As a municipality we also have to pay Eskom, as well as our water and other service providers. The coronavirus has placed us in a difficult position. We do, however, also have to take the challenges of our people into account.”

Segede said that although they reached out to Eskom to make an arrangement, they did not receive a positive response.

“We wrote to Eskom asking for a payment arrangement as we were aware that people would have challenges in paying their accounts which would then place pressure on the municipality to meet its own commitments. We received a response from Eskom on March 27, 2020 stating that we were not excused from making payments and that we must make payments as far as possible.

“There are many municipalities who are in the red with Eskom and who are threatened that the power will be cut. We do not want to find ourselves in such a position as this will hamper the services we need to deliver to our people,” he said.