Concourt to hear Free State rates dispute

By Drum Digital
05 February 2013

The Constitutional Court will hear a case on Tuesday involving a woman who had her lights cut off because she refused to pay her rates on the grounds that her municipality was not delivering services.

Kroonstad resident Olga Rademan, a member of the Moqhaka Ratepayers and Residents' Association, declared a dispute with the Moqhaka municipality in June 2008.

Rademan and other members of the association withheld payment of property rates from the municipality in protest against poor service delivery. She was paid up for the electricity and water portion of her bill, but the municipality disconnected her electricity in August 2009 because she would not pay the rates and taxes on the property.

Rademan brought an application in the Kroonstad Magistrate's Court, which ruled the municipality was not entitled to disconnect her electricity.

The municipality appealed the ruling in the Bloemfontein High Court. It argued it was entitled to disconnect electricity when a ratepayer failed to pay for the provision of any service in terms of the Credit Control and Debt Collection By-Laws.

This legislation and the Local Government: Municipality Systems Act showed the municipality had done nothing wrong because it was entitled to do so even if the actual service terminated was paid.

The Moqhaka municipality argued residents had no right to pick the services they wanted to pay for.

Rademan argued that in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA), the municipality was not entitled to cut the electricity supply to her property.

The high court overturned the lower court's decision.

Rademan then appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). It dismissed the case and said a municipality had the option, under the systems act, of consolidating the accounts for various services. It was intended to prevent residents from electing for which municipal accounts they wished to pay for.

The Constitutional Court will hear argument on whether there is a conflict between the ERA and the systems act, and whether the ERA should prevail.

The municipality contends there is no conflict and that the systems act should prevail.

-Sapa

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