News24 Wire
4 minute read
7 Dec 2020
8:46 pm

Johannesburg school disputes City’s R3.7m ‘unpaid’ bill claim, says power still on

News24 Wire

Vuleka SSB High School in Randburg was last year also disconnected, paid a penalty and arranged to pay their debt, but then defaulted on their arrangement.

Picture for illustration. City Power members dismantle illegal connections at Rabie Ridge and Kanana informal settlements in Johannesburg, 17 June 2020. City Power Revenue Prorection Unit was assisted by SANDF, SAPS and JMPD to cut off illegal connections in the area. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

City Power and a Johannesburg-based private school are at odds over the claim that Vuleka SSB High School in Randburg owes the City of Johannesburg millions of rands in unpaid bills.

On Monday, City Power spokesperson Isaac Mangena claimed Vuleka owed City Power over R3.7 million, and that power to the school had been cut as a result.

But Vuleka has hit back at the City’s allegation of arrears, as well as the claim that its power was cut on Monday.

In response to the metro’s claims, Vuleka’s lawyers sent a detailed response in which they state the following:

  • Vuleka SSB has made payment to the City of Johannesburg of all amounts that are not disputed and are due for electricity consumed;
  • The school has raised formal disputes with the City of Johannesburg on its electricity accounts in terms of section 102 of the Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000;
  • SSB is up to date with all amounts that it concedes are due for electricity consumed and makes payments to the City of Johannesburg for electricity consumed each month.
  • SSB, through its attorneys of record AB Scarrott Attorneys, obtained an urgent court interdict prohibiting the City of Johannesburg from disrupting the electricity supply to SSB at the commencement of the matric exams.
  • The electricity at SSB has not been disconnected.
  • The suggestion that SSB owes R 3.7 million to City Power for electricity consumed is likewise incorrect.

On Monday, Mangena also said this was the second time the utility had disconnected power at the school.

“Last year, they paid a penalty and arranged to pay their debt. They then defaulted on their arrangement with City Power.”

“This time, they must pay R3.7 million before they can be legally reconnected. We are surprised that after we had raided the school last year, they have not fulfilled their promises,” said Mangena.

But Vuleka SSB claims the City has “ignored its obligations to render accurate municipal accounts in terms of section 95 (d) and (e)” of the Municipal Systems Act.

“The City of Johannesburg has made attempts and threats to disconnect SSB’s electricity supply, notwithstanding that they have failed to address the disputes on their electricity account (which make up the amounts that the City of Johannesburg alleges, wrongly, is due). They were not entitled to make threats of disconnection under the circumstances, and SSB, as they were entitled to, took legal steps to prevent the City of Johannesburg from acting unlawfully by interrupting the electrical supply to SSB.”

The school, which says it is reliant on “donations and church support”, said the City’s claim has resulted in “serious anxiety and concerns on the part of both of parents and students at the school” while exams continue.

Meanwhile, City of Johannesburg mayoral committee member for infrastructure and environmental services, Mpho Moerane, who joined City Power officials on the raid on Monday morning, said they have established that municipal employees are colluding with customers to manipulate their accounts.

Moerane said some customers are not paying what they actually owe the City.

“It is true that some of our employees are colluding with consumers to steal power. We then involve the City’s Group Forensic Investigations to take over. There are people that have been suspended at City Power and some are being investigated.

“It is not only City Power employees who are implicated, there are people in the revenue department who are manipulating accounts. Residents are not paying proper rates and accounts.

“We will nip it in the bud. We have noticed that there is a trend of illegal things within our City. So far, we have arrested two people who attempted to bribe our officials. We call on our people to keep our municipality clean and pay for water and electricity,” said Moerane.

Moerane said they are focusing on illegal connections and people who don’t pay for their services.

“Last week, we arrested an individual who was stealing electricity and when we arrived at his place, he attempted to bribe our officials. He is currently out on bail and we are monitoring his place to ensure that power is not illegally connected again.

“Our focus is if you don’t pay for services or steal electricity, we disconnect complete [sic] and you must pay a fine of R30 000 for reconnection. We then monitor your payment every month,” said the MMC.

The man owes the municipality an estimated R3.4 million.

The 55-year-old was arrested during an operation by the Hawks and City Power’s Revenue Protection Unit.

The man attempted to bribe officials with R25 000.

He also confessed to officials that he owns a 48-roomed housing unit built on a municipal recreation park.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect Vuleka SSB High School’s response, conveyed through its lawyers. News24 Wire reported on City Power’s comments during an event hosted on Monday.

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