City services for nothing

2019-12-30 13:47
Deputy mayor Manilal Inderjit, senior finance manager Sipho Nxumalo (centre) and Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla at Peacevalley 3 on Friday.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA NTULI

Deputy mayor Manilal Inderjit, senior finance manager Sipho Nxumalo (centre) and Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla at Peacevalley 3 on Friday.PHOTO: NOKUTHULA NTULI

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Some of the city’s residents neither have water meters nor remember the last time they bought prepaid electricity vouchers, but they continue to enjoy municipal services.

This was revealed when the DA, ACDP, Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla and ANC councillors took a tour to Peacevalley3 and Shayamoya on Friday. This was in response to the allegations of theft of municipal services with the assistance of City officials and councillors made by ACDP’s Rienus Niemand earlier this month.

The delegation visited several households where they asked whether the residents were paying for water and to tell them when they last bought an electricity voucher. None of them had water meters, yet they had yard taps. Members of council were shocked to find that some residents were not only stealing its water and electricity for their own personal use but also for business, including renting out rooms.

“We don’t pay for water and I don’t remember when I last bought the voucher, I think it was over a year ago,” said Mondli Mtolo from Peacevalley 3.

Other residents in the area and from Shayamoya said they doubted anyone in the area actually spent any money on municipal services.

Most claimed they could not afford to pay for municipal services but stuttered when challenged by the City administrator, Sibusiso Sithole, who asked if they had DStv and, if so, who paid for it.

In Shayamoya, Thobile Zondo said most people in the area had tampered with their meters and confessed to being one of them.

A man who has found a market for bypassing meters was said to be from Sobantu, but everyone seemed to have forgotten his name and lost his contact details when Thebolla requested them.

Niemand then led the delegation to Ibhodwe Carwash where they found that both water and electricity had been illegally connected.

Deputy Mayor Manilal Inderjit said he was informed that the facility serviced at least 50 cars a day that paid R50 each. He said it was shocking that someone who made more than R70 000 a month did not think to pay for the services that were a critical part of his business, and was only too happy to take home a hefty profit at the expense of the municipality.

“The owner is only paying for the staff and consumables ... We really need to tighten up where we’re losing money,” said Inderjit.

Niemand said this was a common occurrence across the municipality, but was optimistic that the City would be clamping down on the perpetrators in the near future. He said there was already an audit committee resolution aimed at addressing the matter and the municipal management had issued a directive to the responsible department to deal with it.

DA caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said he was also hoping that the “eye-opening” tour would inform some of the council resolutions on issues of revenue enhancement. He said enforcing the City’s debt control fairly across the municipality would go a long way in dealing with the escalating debtors book, which sat at close to R4 billion.

“When we disconnect defaulting debtors we must do that across the board, not just in certain parts of the city because that’s going to antagonise those who are paying for water and electricity. We must deal with this urgently before we are faced with a boycott from ratepayers.”

Majola said his calculations indicated that more than 80 000 households were not paying for services. He said the problem was prevalent in the 10 wards in Vulindlela.

“It’s not just theft but there are people who are being billed but just refuse to pay, and that will continue if we don’t cut them off like the rest of the customers.”

Speaking to The Witness afterwards, Thebolla said the reason he agreed to come for the tour was to see the extent of the problem of theft of municipal services as well as find proof on the allegations of the involvement of officials and councillors.

“Ours is to investigate and deal with this man from Sobantu and if he has any links with the municipality’s staff, then we will have to take corrective action against those employees.”

He said while residents made admissions of illegal connections, no one implicated members of council nor the City staff. He said the opposition must now either prove councillors’ involvement or apologise to council for the allegations that its members colluded in the commission of a crime.

On the issue of affordability, Thebolla said he noted that most of the people living in the areas visited could qualify for indigent status so that they could get free basic services for which National Treasury would give Msunduzi an equitable share. He said he would be engaging with City officials to ensure that those who qualified were registered so that they would not have to steal.

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