Striking Sol Plaatje Municipality workers prevent city residents from paying blocked accounts
THE SOL Plaatje Municipality has confirmed that blocked prepaid electricity meters will immediately be unblocked following the strike by municipal employees.
A large number of city residents, whose meters were blocked by the municipality following non-payment, were left stranded on Tuesday morning when they were prevented by striking municipal employees from paying and making arrangements on their municipal accounts.
Municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie confirmed that on Tuesday morning senior officials had to assist almost 25 members of the public who had come to the Civic Centre to pay their blocked accounts.
“It was agreed that the blocked electricity prepaid meters will immediately be unblocked temporarily due to the current illegal industrial activities at the municipality,” Matsie said.
He added that the temporary unblocking would be extended to include Wednesday when a national strike is planned by Cosatu and its affiliates.
“Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the areas and numbers that were blocked were aligned not to have high numbers to allow for social distancing when coming to our offices,” Matsie said.
He added that the municipality was aware that some members of the public might not have been able to access the municipal offices to pay.
While the municipality suspended the cutting off of arrear accounts during the lockdown, the outstanding debt owed to the local authority is now well over R2.5 billion. Debt over 90 days is more than R2 billion.
According to the monthly statement for August 2020, an analysis revealed that the catalysts for this condition are the sheer volume of account holders in arrears, the poor economic circumstances of a large number of the municipality’s account holders, and the increasing cost of services beyond the municipality’s control.
“This is compounded by the large number of water leaks that go unreported, which causes the account holder’s account to escalate beyond their means to pay. In addition to this, there is a substantial portion of irrecoverable, stagnant debt that attracts interest every month. We have a backlog of processing this debt and submitting this to council for approval to write off,” a report on the outstanding debt states.
“We have revised our policies to make our processes more effective. This will allow us to focus on preventing debt from ageing where possible in tracing and updating our debtors’ information and recovering outstanding amounts.
“We anticipate a marked turnaround of this trend and in conjunction with a concerted effort to retard the escalation of ageing debt, we are focusing on improving the accuracy and regularity of our billing as well as our communication with our account holders.
“We are also in the process of verifying our Indigent Register and are encouraging account holders whose households qualify to approach the municipality for an assessment and possible registration as an indigent household.”
Meanwhile, the municipality’s outstanding debt owed to Eskom and the Department of Water and Sanitation is R228.7 million.
The total interest charged on the Eskom account is R890 000.
The municipality is reported to be in negotiations with both institutions to conclude new debt agreements