Councillor’s big debt

2011-06-27 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality councillor Rachel Soobiah and her husband Clinton owe the municipality more than R70 000 in electricity bills and R12 000 for rates on their property at 45 Gaysingh Road, Northdale.

The couple also allegedly owe the municipality almost R5 000 in water tariffs on a Fuchsia Road property that they have been running as a boarding house.

Questions have been raised by municipal and ANC sources as to how this was not picked up before Soobiah was inducted as a councillor. She was also recently elected to the national executive council of the ANC Youth League.

The municipality disconnected the electricity at Gaysingh Road almost two years ago, three years after the couple had moved into the house.

Last week neighbours were surprised to learn that the electricity had been cut off for such a long time, saying they always see lights on in the house at night.

Before the election questions were raised about Soobiah’s alleged flouting of by-laws as there were claims that the boarding house is not properly registered.

Msunduzi spokesperson Brian Zuma confirmed that the electricity meter at the Gaysingh Road property was removed in November 2009 and that the water meter was last read on July 2, 2010.

Zuma said payments for electricity used on the property were last made on June 10, 2008, and the outstanding balance is R71 408,60.

On the Fuchsia Road property, Zuma said, “The electricity meter was removed in December 2010. The water meter was faulty, raising estimates of 70 kilolitres per month.

“The last normal reading was in December 8, 2010. The consumer last paid on March 15, 2011, and the balance outstanding is R4 934,11.”

Msunduzi administrator Sibusiso Sithole said the code of conduct for councillors in the Municipal Systems Act states that no councillor may be in arrears to the municipality for rates and services charges for a period longer than 90 days.

He said he will send staff to check if there is an illegal electricity connection.

A source well versed in municipal matters said that because Soobiah is married in community of property, she cannot claim the debt is her husband’s alone.

“Furthermore, how is she going to educate other people to honour their municipal debts when she can’t even get members of her own family to do so?”

The city must show proof that it is actively pursuing the debt from Soobiah, the source said.

ANC regional secretary Super Zuma said that before the election the party screened all its candidates for criminal records and Soobiah does not have one.“These allegations on her municipal bills are new to me so we are going to look into the matter before we take any decision on it,” he said.

Soobiah said she was not aware that her husband’s property owed the municipality such an exorbitant amount for electricity. She said the account is in someone else’s name, which is why she was not aware of it.

“Now that I know about this I will ensure that my husband urgently attends to this matter to ensure that the municipality is paid because I want to abide by the councillor code of conduct,” she said.

Later, after consulting her husband about the matter, Soobiah said she was told the municipality has been estimating their electricity consumption, which she questions given the meter had been removed a long time ago. She denied that they have made an illegal connection.

She said the property at Fuchsia Road does not belong to them, but is rented by her husband, who has been paying the owners.

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