Home News Sol ’reluctantly’ unblocks electricity accounts after residents ’revolt’

Sol ’reluctantly’ unblocks electricity accounts after residents ’revolt’

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Residents queued for hours outside the civic centre as well as the municipal offices in Galeshewe yesterday to unblock their electricity accounts that was disconnected due to non-payment.

City residents flocked to the Sol Plaatje Municipality, after their electricity accounts were blocked. Picture: Danie van der Lith

RESIDENTS queued for hours outside the civic centre as well as the municipal offices in Galeshewe on Thursday to unblock their electricity accounts that was disconnected due to non-payment.

Crowds gathered when the municipal offices opened at 7.30am on Thursday morning.

“There were only a few officials to assist us. Elderly residents had to stand for hours during one of the coldest days of the year, where social distancing was not observed.

“We are afraid that the Delta variant of the Covid-19 pandemic will spread in Kimberley because we are supposed to observe level 4 restrictions. Crowds are not supposed to be congregating but we have no choice. This is while the massive accounts of government buildings and certain businesses are written off.”

Picture: Danie van der Lith

Residents added that they were not able to afford the reconnection fee of R500, settle their outstanding accounts and purchase electricity at the 14,59 percent increase that came into effect on Thursday.

“We will be left in the dark and cold. We were not given adequate notice.”

David Kok from the Kimberley Action Group/United Community Forum of Sol Plaatje believed that the electricity accounts of all residents should be unblocked with immediate effect.

“Residents should be allowed to go home while we engage with the municipality.”

The forum is also demanding the disbanding of the mayoral committee for “their incompetence” and want Sol Plaatje municipality to be placed under administration.

A virtual meeting was held with Sol Plaatje executive mayor and his mayoral committee with the Kimberley Action Group and the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Wednesday, where pleas were made to postpone the electricity increase, which they stated was “ridiculous and unaffordable”.

Kok stated that they were informed that while the municipality remained open for discussions, the electricity increases were “unavoidable”.

“As of July 1 consumers will pay R2,03 per unit and a tariff of R2.83 per unit if they exceed 350 units. The lockdown regulations and Covid-19 pandemic cannot be blamed for the lack of consultation. We have been knocking on the doors of the municipality and Premier’s Office in an attempt to find a solution since April 15. We will develop a way forward after receiving a mandate from the community.”

He urged residents to sign the petition to enable consumers to purchase electricity directly from Eskom.

“We are paying the highest tariffs for electricity in the country. There are already 5,200 signatories from community members while businesses are also supporting this initiative. Hard copies of the petition have also been distributed in the various wards.

“Consumers will be able to purchase double the amount of units if they purchase power directly from Eskom. Kimberley residents get 48 units for R100 while in Ritchie you can purchase 84 units for R100 as they are being supplied by Eskom. With the new tariffs it will equate to 31 or 32 units for R100. It is not befitting to increase the price of electricity under level four of the lockdown.”

Kok suggested that ratepayers hold the municipality ransom by withholding their rates and taxes.

“All functions should be handed over to local business entities and community members. The situation can then be reviewed after six months. We cannot forever fight a pointless battle and take to the streets like hooligans.”

He stated that they were considering obtaining an interdict to place the municipality under administration.

“The municipality is incapable of running its own affairs while no action is being taken by provincial government.

“If leaders are elected from the community who get their mandate from the people, we will have qualified and competent people occupying government positions. We have to stand up and take out these corrupt elements because no one else will come and rescue us. We need to regain Sol Plaatje Municipality.”

He indicated that the city had the necessary resources, knowledge and skills to run the municipality effectively.

“We will not waste time on endless meetings and talkshops but will focus on the work that needs to be done. It is a fallacy that we do not have locally qualified professionals who can do the work. Local contractors will be hired to render professional services including engineering, road projects, water and sanitation and drainage issues. It will also create jobs for the community. For the duration of the six months, individuals and contractors should be compensated to cover costs of services rendered and goods provided and will not be paid exorbitant salaries that are remunerated to officials who are sitting idle all day.”

Picture: Danie van der Lith

CEO of Nocci Sharon Steyn pointed out that the electricity tariffs should be delayed to allow businesses time to “get back on their feet” especially during the adjusted level four lockdown restrictions.

“Unemployment is at an all time high. Businesses are closing left right and centre and are leaving the city that is in turn affecting the local economy and resulting in less revenue for the municipality. The grim answer provided was that the municipality is also cash-strapped and that the increase would be implemented regardless of the dire plight local business is facing.”

She indicated that it was inhumane to cut the power supply of struggling residents and businesses after 30 days of non-payment, while government departments and large entities were permitted to accumulate massive debts.

Steyn stated that she would request the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry to add Sol Plaatje Municipality in the list of municipalities where action would be taken regarding the lack of service delivery.

Spokesperson for Sol Plaatje municipality Sello Matsie noted the long queues of residents whose accounts were blocked due to non-payment at the municipal offices.

“Unfortunately this has produced an undesirable situation of large numbers gathering which is a high risk and prohibited under level 4 lockdown regulations.

“A decision has been taken to immediately unblock accounts in arrears with no payment arrangements. We implore those affected to ensure they regularly make payments on their accounts. The municipality has been trying to recover monies owed as suppliers have threatened to disconnect services. We regret this inconvenience.”

New Tariffs come into effect from July 1

Rates increases: 4 percent

Electricity: 14,59 percent (domestic)

Water: 4 percent

Sanitation: 4 percent

Cleansing/refuse collection: 4 percent

New residential and commercial water tariffs

Increase of 4 percent

• Block 1: 0-6 kl – R6.91

• Block 2: 7-20 kl – R29.37

• Block 3: 21-40 kl – R33.06

• Block 4: 41-60 kl – R34.97

Block 5: more than 60 kl – R37.36

Residential electricity tariffs

Increase of 14,59 percent

Block 1: 0-350 kwh – R2.03

• Block 2: 351+kwh – R2.83