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‘Write off our power debt’

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“Government departments owe the municipality millions of rands, while money allocated for the payment of municipal services continues to be wasted year in and year out.”

THE RESIDENTS of Club 2000 have demanded that the Sol Plaatje Municipality write off their electricity debt or extend their zero tolerance campaign for non-payment to government departments.

This follows a recent decision by the municipality to block electricity to defaulters for non-payment of their municipal accounts.

The residents of Club 2000 took to the streets yesterday and blockaded Nobengula Road, demanding that their electricity be reinstated.

They also called for the Sol Plaatje Executive Mayor Patrick Mabilo to address them and make a commitment that their electricity will be restored.

They argued that the municipality did not warn them that their electricity would be cut, only issuing them with a pink letter.

“Government departments owe the municipality millions of rands, while money allocated for the payment of municipal services continues to be wasted year in and year out.”

“Eskom is also continuously being bailed out by the government with millions of rands, while municipalities on the other hand waste money on the flashy lifestyles of top officials.”

According to the residents, the sad reality was that ratepayers were the ones who suffered by having their electricity meters blocked. “This is on top of the load shedding.

“Just as Eskom continues to be given millions, ratepayers, who cannot afford services, also need to be bailed out,” they added.

One protester said she had been unable to pay her electricity account since November after her grandmother’s pension was suspended by Sassa.

“I am 23 years old, unemployed, and have been taking care of my seven-year-old sibling after our mother passed away early last year.

“We depend on my grandmother’s pension and the child grant, out of which we have also have to pay R400 for creche fees.

“We have been paying our municipal bill regularly as my grandmother would not hear of skipping it.

“However, it has become difficult as we do not have an income ever since my grandmother’s pension was suspended.

“Having our electricity blocked is a huge blow to us and not fair of the government that we voted into power,” she said.

She added that families were being forced to live on handouts from relatives.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality said yesterday that a false impression had been created that various categories of clients were treated differently.

Spokesperson for the municipality, Sello Matsie, stressed that all those in arrears, whether businesses, government departments or private individuals, would have their services suspended for non-payment.

He urged all clients to pay for services used.

“It should be noted that we have engaged and taken action against all defaulters, including government departments, for non-payment of services.”

“As a municipality we also have an obligation to pay Eskom for the bulk electricity that we purchase from the power utility company.

“The zero tolerance campaign is inclusive of municipal officials who owe money to council.”

Matsie stated that the municipality was stepping up its collection efforts and advised all those in arrears to make payments and arrangements with the municipality.

“We do have policies, such as our indigent policy, that specifically caters for the poor and vulnerable, who cannot afford to pay for services.

“However, it is important that residents see the payment of their municipal account as a priority and not as a last resort.”