Despite an outcry from residents, the Msunduzi Municipality on Wednesday vowed to escalate its electricity disconnection campaign.
The municipality is currently battling to collect funds owed by residents and businesses and is under pressure to recover the money following a stern warning from the Auditor-General (AG).
Addressing councillors during Wednesday’s full council meeting held at the City Hall, acting municipal manager (ACM) Nelisiwe Ngcobo said Msunduzi would soon be appointing more service providers to carry out the disconnections.
She warned that the municipality would be plunged into a financial crisis if it failed to pursue its debtors.
“We are not going to stop, we will continue,” she said.
In the 2020/21 financial audit report, the Auditor-General (AG) reprimanded the municipality for its failure to jack up its revenue collection systems.
As things stand, the municipality is owed more than R5 billion by its customers, which include households, businesses and government entities.
Ngcobo said the municipality has to demonstrate to the AG that they are implementing a robust debt collection plan.
“If we don’t do that, then the AG will be on our case,” she said.
However, some residents have claimed that the municipality disconnected them despite the fact its billing system is in shambles, which has resulted in some residents receiving inflated bills.
Last month, angry residents of Sobantu township, outside the Pietermaritzburg CBD, chased away municipal officials who had gone to the area to disconnect non-paying residents.
In the northern areas, residents claimed that Msunduzi’s disconnections programme is being applied selectively.
DA councillor Rooksana Ahmed said the municipality has a responsibility to answer northern suburbs residents’ questions around the disconnections.
“They want to know which other areas are being disconnected.
“As councillors, we need to be told which other areas are being disconnected so that we can counter perceptions that it is only the northern areas which are being targeted,” she said.
However, Ngcobo denied that the municipality was targeting certain areas.
“In some areas, we disconnect while in others we restrict services,” she said.
Ngcobo accused some councillors of encouraging residents to block municipal officials who have been dispatched to carry out the disconnections.
“Some councillors are encouraging residents to lodge disputes to avoid being disconnected.
“As a result, some residents are blocking us from accessing their properties.
“The sad reality is that when you block us from the disconnection we add more charges to your bill,” she said.
Ngcobo, who said she knew which councillors were urging residents to fight the disconnections, told council that she would be referring the culprits to the municipality’s speaker, Eunice Majola.
However, ACDP councillor Rienus Niemand said the municipality’s disconnection programme will not have much impact on its revenue woes unless they address the problem of illegal connections.
“We have a big problem of people stealing electricity.
“Unless we stop supplying electricity to those who steal from us, we will not be able to address the losses currently being suffered by the municipality,” he said.
To avoid being disconnected, residents are required to pay a portion of their bill and then enter into a payment agreement with the municipality.