Johannesburg - Westonaria Local Municipality has threatened to take residents to court to recover more than R184 million owed to it in municipal rates and services.
The threat came after some residents ignored letters of final demand served on them last month.
Most of the letters that The Star has seen did not have the official signature of municipal manager Themba Ndlovu, but the municipality was claiming amounts of between R18 000 and more than R70 000.
Many of those affected are people residing in old municipal houses in Bekkersdal and newly constructed RDP houses in Simunye township.
Elizabeth Mokhele is one of those affected. Mokhele, 53, lives in a three-room house that was initially occupied by her parents in 1945.
She occupied it after her father died in 2003. She said the house was in the original state it was in when she was growing up. No renovations had been made on it.
In July, she was served with a municipal bill of R47 283.67. The house has a market value of R652 000, according to municipal records.
It has many cracks and some of the bricks are falling off. The house is surrounded by several shacks occupied by sub-tenants.
Mokhele, who is unemployed, has prepaid electricity and water. Adding to her problem, the sewerage manhole is in her property. She said it bursts often.
She has been unemployed since 1995 after what she said was a botched sterilisation operation at Leratong Hospital.
“I made numerous attempts to be declared an indigent. I also asked the municipality to register the house in my name, but that failed,” Mokhele said.
She admitted that she had been defaulting on rates and services, but said her bill was too high.
Several other residents, who live in better houses, agree.
Mokgatla Modiemoeng lives near Mokhele. His is a three-bedroom house with a dining room, lounge, kitchen, garage and two flatlets in the backyard. There is an outside toilet.
The main house has a bathroom and toilet. The municipality has valued it at R124 000.
Modimoeng said their house was initially a three-roomed house and he broke it down completely and built a new structure.
Like Mokhele, his family have lived on the property for more than 50 years.
Modimoeng said his municipal bill was just less than R14 000. He too was part of a community decision to boycott rates and taxes.
Municipal spokesman Kgabane Madiehe said there was nothing wrong with the municipal bills. They had a fully functional IT system and their evaluations were correct.
He said some of the residents had failed to speak to the municipality about problems with the evaluations.