ANC provincial chairperson Dr Zamani Saul.
Kimberley - As thousands of Kimberley residents prepare to march against exorbitant electricity tariffs on Wednesday, ANC provincial chairperson Dr Zamani Saul has received a backlash of criticism for his massive unpaid bill for rates and taxes at his city residence.

The outstanding rates and taxes, according to Saul’s May statement from the Sol Plaatje Municipality, stands at R121 231.81, while an amount of R103 301 is more than 90 days overdue.

The statement, which was widely distributed on social media, has had residents up in arms across the city.

The current account owing is R6 335.02 while interest is being charged monthly on the arrears on water, refuse, sewerage and rates.

EFF councillor Francis Thulo called for equal treatment for all city residents.

“If the poor and pensioners don’t pay, their municipal services are immediately cut. The rest of the ratepayers in the city cannot be expected to pay for services if preferential treatment is given to exempt politicians,” said Thulo.

He added that it would be more beneficial if consumers were able to buy electricity directly from Eskom.

“This R260 electricity levy cannot be justified, as it is being used to enrich greedy individuals. It is being used like a cash cow. There was no consultation and the high tariffs on essential services are being forced down our throats. There is a huge difference if you compare the electricity tariffs in the surrounding municipalities in the Northern Cape such as Ritchie and Jacobsdal.”

Residents on social media accused Sol Plaatje Municipality of being guilty of double standards.

“The electricity meter box of this politician will never be cut even if he does not pay his rates and taxes, as is expected of us.

“The municipality has the nerve to block a pensioner’s metre box who is in arrears of a mere R3 000.”

DA provincial leader Andrew Louw said that ANC cadres were being treated differently to the rest of society.

“Based on his total bill for the month of May, with an average amount payable of R6 300, it would further appear that Saul has accumulated about a year-and-a-half’s unpaid debt. It is unacceptable that residents who have outstanding debt to the value of about R3 000 are hounded to pay and threatened with having their electricity cut, yet a blind eye is turned to excessive debt incurred by high-ranking ANC leaders such as Saul,” said Louw.

ANC provincial spokesperson Naledi Gaosekwe said that the distribution of Saul’s municipal account on social media was “extremely malicious and defamatory”.

“The chairperson uses prepaid electricity at his house and this account is unrelated to his electricity usage. He only pays the municipality for water consumption, rates and taxes,” said Gaosekwe.

She further explained that Saul’s wife had lodged a dispute at Sol Plaatje Municipality about three months ago when she noticed that they had been incorrectly billed.

“She followed up on the complaint on several occasions and visited the council offices last week Thursday in an attempt to rectify the account. The amount of R122 000 is incorrect and has to be corrected by the municipality. It is impossible that a family of five can consume water of about R80 000 in one or two months.”

Gaoskewe added that, as a resident of Kimberley for almost 20 years, the ANC provincial chairperson had always been a very faithful ratepayer.

“It would be extremely unfair to expect the family to pay for an account which they believe is incorrectly billed. They did the right thing to lodge a formal dispute with the municipality. The municipality must attend to the dispute.”

The spokesperson for Sol Plaatje Municipality, Sello Matsie, stated that the matter was being looked into after a dispute was laid regarding the billing.

Matsie added that the proposed R260 electricity surcharge as well as the revised tariffs would still be implemented as of July 1.

“The new tariffs are subject to approval by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa. Should there be any changes, the tariffs will be adjusted accordingly.”

The organiser of the march against the new electricity tariffs and chairperson of Operation Wanya Tsotsi, Pantsi Obusitse, said that 5 000 city residents are expected to take part in the march tomorrow.

“There will be a total shutdown. All businesses, shops and shopping malls are encouraged to close their doors in support of the march as everybody will be affected by high electricity prices. Most of the shops in the CBD have agreed to close for the day. The taxi industry will outline their plan of action in support of the march. A number of municipal workers, political parties and people from all walks of life will also be joining the march. Our marshals and the police will ensure that it is peaceful and without any incident,” said Obusitse.

He added that they had obtained approval for the march and that a memorandum would be handed over to the Sol Plaatje executive mayor tomorrow.

“We want him to accept our memorandum in person. The whole of Kimberley is united in this campaign. If the revised tariffs are introduced next week, we will be applying for an urgent interdict.”

The CEO of Nocci, Sharon Steyn, however, said that most businesses had indicated that they would be operating as normal tomorrow.

“We are fully behind the march. It will be up to each business to decide if they wish to take part in the march or close for the day,” said Steyn.

She added that businesses would be hard hit by the new tariffs.

“There is a proposal that all businesses should convert to prepaid electricity while they will be expected to pay in advance for electricity at the beginning of the month. This will force many businesses to close down.”