Uncategorized 2.5.2014 06:00 am

Tshwane hounds wheelchair-bound pensioner for others’ debts

FILE PICTURE: File photo. New electricity metering equipment is seen following a press conference by City Power. Picture: Michel Bega

FILE PICTURE: File photo. New electricity metering equipment is seen following a press conference by City Power. Picture: Michel Bega

The City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality (CTMM) recently is refusing to obey a court order to supply basic municipal services, like electricity and water, to wheelchair-bound Fredah Kekana, a Tshwane homeowner.

It is demanding she pay the arrears owed by the previous homeowner.

Before any property can be transferred from one owner to another, the outstanding amounts owing to the local authority for the preceding two years must be paid in full. If this is not done, a municipal rate clearance certificate cannot be obtained, preventing ownership transfer. This is according to section 118(1) of the Municipal Systems Act (MSA).

CTMM wants to hold new property owners accountable for municipal debts they did not incur. It relies on section 118(3) of the MSA that says: “An amount due for municipal service fees, surcharges on fees, property rates and other municipal taxes, levies and duties is a charge upon the property in connection with which the amount is owing and enjoys preference over any mortgage bond registered against the property.”

Kekana paid R668 000 for her home in October last year after the previous owners, a Mr & Mrs Oosthuizen, defaulted on their loan. Prior to transfer taking place, Tshwane suddenly demanded that she pay it R56 100.

New Ventures

Kekana sought the assistance of Johannesburg-based New Ventures Consulting Services. (NVCS), a firm that specialises in auditing municipal accounts.

NVCS analysed the CTMM rates and service charges account and found an overcharge of R36 460. Kekana only owed R19 650. CTMM approved the lesser figure and, in December, issued a rates clearance certificate, but then refused to enter into a consumer agreement with Kekana on the grounds that Mr & Mrs Oosthuizen still owed it R36 500 (being the R56 000 less the R19 000 paid to obtain the clearance certificate).

A consumer agreement entitles you to municipal services.

NVCS had three other clients in a similar predicament and took its clients’ case to the North Gauteng High Court (NGHC) on an urgent basis.

NVCS Director, Costa Livanos told the court: “As will appear from this affidavit, the Municipality’s failure to render municipal services appears to be based on financial issues, and its failure to act diligently and expeditiously against previous defaulters. The applicants herein cannot lawfully be held liable for amounts due by such defaulters.”

Livanos also told the court that the CTMM had failed to ask the Sheriff to recover all arrears owed by the Oosthuizens, despite its obligation to do so and despite NVCS’s repeated reminders of its obligation.

On February 18 2014, CTMM consented to a court order to immediately provide municipal services to Kekana, but then Ronny Shilenge, its Director of Sundry Debtors & Municipal Rentals, executed an abrupt about-face and refused to do so. He demanded Kekana pay R5 000 upfront and enter into an agreement to pay off the Oosthuizens’ debt in monthly instalments before he would enter into a consumer agreement.

NVCS has now paid R5 000 on Kekana’s behalf under protest in order to restore municipal services.

The city is trying to pressure Kekana into signing an acknowledgement of debt for R37 760 and is sitting tight on restoring power and other vital services.

Kekana believes that the CTMM attempted to deceive her. The matter will be back in the High Court later this year.

CTMM refuses to comment, saying the matter “involves possible litigation”.

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