Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality resorts to extortion to collect revenue

06 May 2022 in Press Statements

Note to Editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Cllr Alison Oates

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in the Free State has written to the Minister of Cogta, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, to intervene in the Maluti-a-Phofung Municipality cutting electricity of businesses and households without following proper procedures.

To arrive at a business, demand an immediate payment of 50% – based on an estimated and unverifiable account – and subsequently cut off the electricity supply, is contrary to the very provision in the law and policy, and amounts to extortion.

As announced repeatedly in the past days, the MaP Municipality has embarked on a drive to collect revenue. This is admirable considering that it owes Eskom almost R7 billion, however the leadership fails to understand that this must be done within the confines of the law.

After years where no accounts were sent out, or accounts contained no meter readings or the applicable tariffs, the activities being undertaken are undoubtedly outrageous and illegal. This has been confirmed in numerous interim court orders and court judgments. Several businesses have been without power for 10 days after officials arrived at the businesses unannounced, demanding an immediate 50% payment. The failure to instantly produce this payment led to the immediate disconnection of the electricity supply.

The Municipal Systems Act states that consumers must receive regular accounts containing all the relevant information to allow verification. This is not done. Furthermore consumers may lodge disputes where they cannot verify the calculations. These disputes must be investigated and resolved within three months. This is not done, with some disputes unresolved after years.

The Credit Control and Debt Management Policy was adopted by the previous council at a meeting in June 2021. No specific resolution on the current cut-off programme was adopted by the new council. The policy states that consumers must receive a warning notice prior to terminating their electricity supply. The policy makes no provision for a demand that 50% of the account be paid instantly.

The MaP16 leadership would do well to understand that our country has laws and a Constitution, and that embarking on illegal and extortionate activities will not be tolerated by the courts. Consumers have a right to administrative justice and will be protected by the courts.

The DA believes that revenue collection forms part of a package of good financial management as prescribed by the MFMA, but we will not remain silent in these abuses taking place.