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City of Joburg faces legal battle over ’outrageous billing and meter tampering’

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa – A legal battle of outrageous rental billing and meter tampering has ensued between the City of Johannesburg and 18 of its communities.

The disgruntled communities are represented by the Local Development and Economic Civil Association (LDECA) – a registered non-profit organisation with over 8 000 members.

The communities include Eldorado Park, Ennerdale, Klipspruit, Klipspruit West, Bushkoppies, Orange Farm, Mondeor, Ormonde, Ridgeway, South Hill, Glenvista, Rivonia, Riverlea, Rosettenville, Turffontein, Lenasia, Noordgesig and Lenasia South.

The association’s chairperson Majiet Amien said residents were having a hard time with the city’s incorrect billing system.

“People have not been issued with the prescription act, it’s either the system is rejecting it, or there is something wrong with their system,” he said.

An affidavit detailing the community’s challenges was penned by the group’s law firm TJP Attorneys and addressed to city manager Ndivhoniswani Lukhwareni, mayor Geoff Makhubo and finance MMC Jolidee Matongo.

The affidavit indicates that since last year the city has issued at least 480 pre-termination notice threats for water and electricity supply to residents of the affected areas.

“Underlying the pre-termination notices has been a continuous erroneous metering and accounting of the use of service by the City of Joburg. LDECA has recorded a number of fundamental flaws which exist within the metering and accounting system.”

According to the affidavit, a meeting was held on January 23 between the city and LDECA. The association listed its challenges with the metering and accounts system.

“Accounts which are older than three years should be disregarded because of operational prescriptions. Elderly and indigent persons must be afforded participation in a fair and consistent rebate system.”

Also raised in the meeting was that accounts running into millions of rand appeared to be obvious errors and that there are accounts belonging to deceased people whose debt has since been inherited by remaining residents who are now held accountable.

In this file picture, a small group of people protest outside Thuso House, Braamfontein against the City of Jo'burg billing shambles in which people have been receiving exhorbitant bills and getting cut off for non-payment. Picture: Cara Viereckl

The affidavit indicates that the city’s debt rehabilitation programme carried out last year did not extend to all areas in the greater Joburg municipality areas and did not consider the accounts of residents containing errors.

“At the conclusion of the meeting it was resolved and recorded by Jolidee Matongo that pending a process of allowing for the correction of residents’ municipal accounts the execution of termination of services would be suspended,” read the papers.

City attorneys Nozuko Nxusani Incorporated have since opposed and deposed the organisation’s affidavits context through another affidavit filed at the high court on November 3.

The city’s legal department has denied the association’s claim that Matongo agreed to a correction of residents’ municipal accounts during the meeting held on January 23.

The city’s responding affidavit denies allegations of handing over the accounts of deceased people to remaining residents.

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