ANC councillor Joel Masilela.
Pretoria - The City of Tshwane is owed a staggering R8.6 billion by customers in unpaid rates and taxes, it emerged on Wednesday.

“At the top on the list is R4.54bn owed by residential customers. The business customers come second with a gross outstanding amount of R2.28bn.

“A further liability is attributed to government and inactive customer debts which stand at R824m and R661m respectively,” municipal spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said.

And unfortunately for the DA-led administration, the launch of a revenue collection campaign could not go ahead Wednesday after it was disrupted by ANC councillors.

The campaign was the first step towards recouping debts owed to the city.

Part of the campaign would have included door-to-door visits by officials, who were also to hand out flyers and questionnaires on credit control to residents.

However, the ANC councillors were having none of it.

The officials had just unpacked their material and city logo branded banners when they were confronted by ANC councillors.

They complained of not having been consulted about the initiative to reach out to communities in their wards.

They instructed the officials to pack up and go, and not return until they had been consulted about the initiative.

The municipal officials had no choice but to leave the Thusong Service Centre in Mamelodi, and thus could not conscientise community members on the importance of paying for services.

ANC councillor Joel Masilela said none of the councillors was opposed to the campaign, but wanted to be informed about it.

“We have no problem with the campaign taking place here today, but we are saying were not aware of it,” he said. Masilela said he learnt about the amount of money owed to the city from the media.

“The councillors of Mamelodi don’t know of it, and the channel of councillors knowing must be done through the Speaker’s office.”

Most people failed to pay the city owing to the socio-economic challenges they faced daily, he said.

Incorrect billing and the illegal connections of electricity were among factors contributing to the debts owed to the city, he added. “We must sit down as councillors and administrators and discuss ways to resolve this for people who can’t pay their utility bills.”

Councillors said they were duly elected and represented the masses, and they wanted to be informed about whatever programmes were conducted in their wards.

Mashigo said the revenue collection campaign was informed by the outstanding debt owed to the city.

A disconnection of services drive for account holders in arrears was embarked upon by the previous administration in a bid to recover R6.5bn of outstanding debt owed to the city in 2014, he said.

“This drastic and unprecedented action saw schools, residential customers, businesses, government departments and embassies being disconnected from the electricity grid pending payment.

At the time, the method was relatively successful and seemed to be the only viable solution to recoup the money owed,” he said.

Mashigo said the enhanced revenue collection segmented the customers into those who were unwilling to pay and those genuinely unable to pay.

“This time around the campaign seeks to create a culture of paying municipal bills by explaining the importance and benefits to the customers.”

Disruptions fuelled by the ANC since the DA took control of the city:

Three weeks ago ANC councillors disrupted executive mayor Solly Msimanga’s speech at the State of the Capital Address (Soca), turning the occasion into a commemoration of local youth Struggle icon Solomon Mahlangu.

Last month, MMC for Agriculture and Environmental Management Mike Mkhari and Council Speaker Katlego Mathebe were barred by hostile ANC members from officially opening the Kruisfontein Cemetery in Soshanguve.

The first ordinary council sitting under DA rule in September last year was marred with disruption when ANC and EFF councillors got involved in a scuffle less than an hour into the meeting.

Three weeks later violence erupted again in the council due to a complaint about political office bearers, allegedly appointed illegally by Msimanga.

Pretoria News