On February 13 and 14, sub-contractors claiming to be from Jhb Water arrived in Coronationville with instructions from the city entity to cut off the water supply to non-paying residents.
The water meter of one resident was so badly damaged by technicians on Monday that it requires repairs. On Tuesday morning, residents intervened to prevent another round of cut-offs.
The situation quickly escalated and the technicians were forced to leave following threats to their lives and imminent danger. Westside Urban News contacted JHB Water to request clarity on the matter because residents have been informed in public meetings by councillors and in the media that the cutting off of a home’s water supply is illegal and a violation of basic human rights.
What follows is their response:
Response from Joburg Water:
The City of Johannesburg issued water cut-off instructions for Coronationville due to non-payments. We are also aware of cases of intimidation by the community as reported by our external contractors. The contractors have since left the area for safety reasons.
However, the jurisdiction for credit control actions falls under the City’s Revenue Management.
Response from Revenue:
The city employs a range of credit management processes to recover the municipal debt. These include telephonic reminders that monies are owed, delivery of pre-termination notices, the appointment of collection agents to collect the outstanding debt and service disconnections. We follow our credit control policy in this regard and note with concern the community’s response.
Our ability to collect our revenue is directly linked to our ability to deliver clinics, roads, water, and electricity. The city, to a large extent, self-funds service delivery projects through the collection of charges for Rates and Services. If we want to better the lives of all our residents, we need to be prudent in our collections.
The city recognizes that several of our communities face various challenges, and this includes the inability to pay for its services. Our ESP (expanded social package) programme aims to offer our most vulnerable residents some form of assistance through rebates for Rates and allocations for water and electricity.
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This can be applied for at our Customer Service Centres. We encourage all our residents to be frugal in the use of these allocations because charges are applied when these allocations are exceeded.
We have also had several engagements with councillors and community activists who have highlighted that some households in communities like Coronationville, fall short of the benefits offered by ESP.
There has been a specific call for debt write-offs, which the city is currently considering. This city-wide programme is being critically looked at and it must be noted that when implemented, the process will consider accounts on a case by case basis and residents will need to prove their financial status.
Why send cut-off notices?
In approaching any write-off process, the city needs to demonstrate that it has exhausted its own credit control processes – which includes pre-termination notices and that these have yielded no collection.
We would lastly like to remind customers to service their current debt, as agreed with the councillors and community leaders.