Billing crisis causes residents to take to the streets in protest

2011-02-18 13:14

Johannesburg residents protested outside the city’s customer service centre in Braamfontein today.

Protesters, led by DA councillor David Dewes, handed over a memorandum of demands to a representative of the city’s finance department.

“Political parties are not going to fix the problem. The people of this country will,” shouted Dewes in a voice that could be heard a block away.

“We are tired of politicians pillaging our money.”

He was referring to the alleged overbilling of many Johannesburg residents for rates and utilities followed by disconnection if the bills are not paid.

The small group of angry Johannesburg residents, un-hindered by the rain, danced and sang during the protest.

Head of the city’s financial department, Vicky Shupeng, said that the city had set up a hotline where residents could register complaints and that the billing crisis would be resolved “soon”.

“The hotline will be run by competent staff members.

“We are saying that we are hearing the noise, we are responding.”

Her speech was followed by cries from protesters: “Do we wait another 20 years?”

Protesters dressed in blue DA T-shirts and caps carried signs that read: “Masondo is not a leader; he is a money bleeder.”

Charges were laid by a Blairgowrie resident this month against Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo and a member of the mayoral committee for finance, Parks Tau, for contravening the Municipal Systems Act, said Dewes.

The act says that the municipality must take reasonable steps to ensure that residents are aware of the costs involved in service provision, he said.

Lombardy East resident Evert Kleynhans said he received a bill last year for R35 000. When he didn’t pay it, the municipality cut off his electricity.

“Because the electricity was cut off, my automated gate stopped working.

I was hijacked the one night while getting out of my car to open the gate manually.”

Roodepoort resident Mike Naidoo said he received a bill this month that began at R15 000 late in 2009 and eventually accumulated to R197 000.

“I have complained so much to the city that I now have 17 reference numbers.

Where do I go from here?” he asked.

Martini Marica, a Kensington resident, said she received a bill for R28 000 in September last year.

“I went to my husband and I said ‘Is this a joke?’.

I carried on paying every month what we usually paid, which was about R800, but then in January, I got a bill for R48 000.”

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