City Power's blitz to collect R363m sees hotel disconnected by mistake due to incorrect billing

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Members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department and City Power officials outside the Nigerian consulate in Illovo on Wednesday.
Members of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department and City Power officials outside the Nigerian consulate in Illovo on Wednesday.
PHOTO: Alex Patrick/News24
  • City Power's three-day revenue collection drive hit the wealthy areas of the City of Johannesburg's region E on Wednesday.
  • The entity is working to claw back some of the R363 million residents and businesses in the region owe.
  • A hotel which was disconnected later proved that City Power had made a mistake on their bill.

City Power's revenue collection drive hit the wealthy areas of the City of Johannesburg's region E on Wednesday, with the hopes of collecting some of the R363 million it was owed in the region.

The power utility embarked on a three-day blitz on Tuesday by disconnecting some businesses, including a church and a TVET college, over non-payment.

On Wednesday, the first stop was the Nigerian consulate in Illovo, which had its electricity cut after allegedly failing to pay a R406 000 bill.

WATCH | Some power cuts and some tantrums as businesses get 'surprise' visit from City Power

When a convoy of officials arrived at the consulate, the gates were immediately shut, and officials from City Power and the Johannesburg metro were left waiting outside. After half an hour, officials decided to cut the building's electricity. Consulate representatives came outside the building two minutes later, but it was too late.

The convoy then left for The Catalyst Hotel in Sandton. City Power officials turned off the electricity at the mini substation outside its gates, in full view of hotel guests.

The bulk electricity supplier said the hotel owed it R1.1 million. However, the hotel's general manager Robert Chifunyise said they were aware of the billing issue and had been trying to clear it up with City Power. 

READ | City Power cuts off Nigerian consulate's electricity over unpaid bill of more than R400 000

Later, The Catalyst Hotel expressed regret over the termination of its power in a written response to News24.

"Power was erroneously disconnected despite months of correspondence between City Power and The Catalyst to correct inaccurate City Power billing and incorrect backdated recalculations, coupled with ongoing efforts by the hotel to finalise accounts," account director Collette McRobert said.

The hotel's power has subsequently been restored. The hotel, however, said it was disappointed that its power was "mistakenly, unfairly, prematurely disconnected publicly".

The frustration was mirrored by two private residents, who said their electricity bill was unpaid because of an error on City Power's side.

One resident of Atholl Gardens had a bill of R2.5 million. The resident did not speak to the media but was shocked to arrive home to a street full of City officials.

City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena said there were internal issues with the billing system.

"That is something we are attending to, so when we come to customers to say they owe us a certain amount of money, we can say this is the exact amount they owe."

READ | City Power turns lights of defaulting businesses off in three-day blitz

He said only one residential customer queried their bill on Wednesday.

"But for others, the money would have been audited by the City before it was sent to City Power and pre-termination letters issued to those customers. If they've got a problem with the amounts written in those letters, they will come before we visit those areas," Mangena added.

"We are also aware of issues with meters. Either they are not connected or not commissioned. We saw that with some areas in Alexandra."

On Tuesday, City Power visited big businesses in Alexandra, Wynberg and Kew to collect millions in unpaid debt. The operation is part of an effort by the City of Johannesburg to claw back some of its lost revenue.

Mangena said later that day, many of the businesses in the region paid their outstanding bills after being disconnected. He said that afternoon, and again on Wednesday, the City Power region E depot in Kew saw queues of people coming to pay their debt.

City Power is owed R4 billion by residents and businesses in the city. It hopes that by the end of the three-day operation, it will have collected R36 million of the R363 million owed by region E.

Mangena said Thursday's operation would focus on illegal connections in Alexandra.

Extra Johannesburg metro police officers have been deployed to accompany City Power officials as they go about disconnecting non-paying customers.

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