A single resident at Copperleaf Golf and Country Estate in Centurion allegedly owes the City of Tshwane a total of R550 241.82 in outstanding rates and taxes, electricity and water account arrears and various penalties.
The City of Tshwane confirmed this last week, and that it has “ringfenced” a total of 7 335 residential estates in the city for revenue loss detection as part of its revenue collection drive.
Copperleaf GM Phineas Thosago said city officials have not yet been able to point out a single house in the estate that has had its electricity disconnected because of an illegal connection.
Why did city tolerate such high arrears?
Thosago also questioned why the city has allowed a single resident in the estate to rake up such high arrears, and how a vacant stand or unfinished house could have such a large amount owing.
He said if he was two months in arrears – and two months is actually too long – city officials would visit his home with “red letters” to disconnect his electricity.
Thosago said the City of Tshwane cited the provisions of the Protection of Personal Information Act as a reason for not supplying him with information that identifies the homes in Copperleaf that have been disconnected or found with illegal connections.
“However, we said please let us know because if maybe they are criminals, we need to know. We cannot allow those people into Copperleaf,” he said.
City of Tshwane said the arrears of the resident who owes it more than R550 241 had accumulated due to non-payment.
It said credit control actions taken against this resident included several disconnections but the customer had reconnected themself.
The city said tamper fees were also levied on the account and the customer’s account has now been handed over to debt collection.
The city claimed earlier this month that electricity supply to 96 customers in Copperleaf who were in arrears was disconnected, while water restrictions due to arrears were actioned at 156 households; 30 electricity meters were found to have been tampered with; and it replaced 28 conventional meters with pre-paid meters.
Thosago said residents who have illegal electricity connections in Copperleaf must be charged because it is wrong.
Ulterior motive, unintended consequences
Thosago said the city’s campaign in Copperleaf was however never about illegal connections, but about moving residents from conventional to smart meters. “That is why we even gave the municipality temporary offices so they can work with residents,” he said.
Morne Eloff, a director of Copperleaf’s management association, claimed on Friday that Tshwane failed to activate the newly installed smart pre-paid meters, which meant residents whose meters had been converted could not buy electricity.
Eloff said details were sent through to the City of Tshwane, which confirmed it had experienced some information technology issues.
“From a discussion I had with our estate general manager this morning, we are probably still sitting with 25 people who are unable to purchase electricity,” he said.
Eloff said on Friday that city officials had also damaged the power line in the estate during their campaign and six houses had not had any electricity since the previous Tuesday.
“Tshwane says to us they cannot solve it and they need special electricians to get it sorted out,” he said.
Eloff added that Copperleaf has for the past two years also not had street lights at the entrance and in the estate, and the council has not responded to complaints about this.
The City of Tshwane has not yet responded to a request for comment on these issues.
Figures in dispute
Thosago is adamant that the City of Tshwane’s figures on disconnections and illegal connections are incorrect.
He attributed this to different divisions in the City of Tshwane each being judged on key performance indicators, which show if they have been working, and unfortunately saying “the incorrect things”.
However, the city said on Friday that since its campaign at Copperleaf:
It added that a tamper fee will be levied on anyone with an illegal connection and the municipality will also attempt to recover revenue lost through a backwards calculation based on average consumption.
“The City can go to an extent of opening criminal charges,” it said. “However, due to the amnesty programme running until 30 September 2022, should those who have tampered come clean, amnesty will be considered.”
The city said a maximum penalty of R200 000 will be levied on tampered meters.
It said the total account arrears was R15 billion at 31 August.
City’s Eskom account
The city launched its revenue collection drive at the beginning of August as part of its ‘Amnesty Project’, a two-month citywide campaign to recover lost revenue due to account arrears and electricity meter tampering.
The revenue collection campaign gained added focus after Eskom on 31 August rejected a proposed payment arrangement from the City of Tshwane related to R1.17 billion owing to the power utility and threatened to disconnect electricity supply to the city.
The City of Tshwane reportedly settled the outstanding amount on Friday.