Pretoria - The Department of Health buildings in Limpopo have been plunged into darkness after the Polokwane municipality cut off their lights on Monday.
Others that were cut off are the provincial Department of Public Works, Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and bus utility Great North Transport.
Municipal officials backed by the municipal police, descended one by one to cut off supply to these departments this week.
According to Polokwane municipality, 10 departments, including Great North Transport, owe the municipality more than R250 million in service fees combined.
Great North Transport, under the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, has been cash-strapped for years now, even owing some employees million of their pension monies.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, municipal spokesperson Thipa Selala said the operation was part of debt recovery.
“This is part of the debt recovery measure to recover millions that the government departments, entities, businesses and individuals owe the municipality.
“The departments and their entities have defaulted on their account and are owing the municipality more than R250m combined,” Selala said.
However, Department of Health spokesperson Neil Shikwambana, said: “The department is worried that the provision of healthcare will be significantly disrupted unnecessarily at some of its facilities around the Polokwane municipal area.
“The department has become aware of a R53m rates and taxes bill for Mankweng Hospital that the municipality has once again wrongly directed to the Department of Health.”
He further said it was the responsibility of the property owner while the occupying departments took care of utility costs such as water and electricity.
The switching off of electricity at hospitals had dire consequences that will be felt by the department and the “innocent poor and vulnerable”.
Limpopo government spokesperson Ndavhe Ramokuela told the Pretoria News that they were aware of the matter and were working on it.
“We have noted the actions that Polokwane municipality has taken in enforcing its credit control policy leading to it switching off some departments. It is within their rights to do so.
“However, we shall continue to engage with relevant parties through the inter-governmental forum that meets on a quarterly basis. This has in the past helped in ensuring that municipal services, rates and taxes are paid at the time they are required.
“Individual departments are encouraged to pay for services. We also encourage them to engage Polokwane Municipality to come to an agreement on how to settle outstanding debts,” Ramokuela said.
The EFF in Limpopo took advantage of the incident and lashed out at the ANC.
Chairperson Tshilidzi Maraga said the party was not surprised that the ANC was fighting among itself.
“The consequential disconnection of electricity in these departments is solid evidence and clear reflection of the ANC’s dismal failure to run effective and good governance.
“Their failure to pay electricity bills is far more questionable because, these departments receive plentiful amount of money from provincial treasury to keep the lights on and provide basic service delivery,” Maraga said.
Polokwane Mayor Jon Mpe said departments were not to be treated unfairly.
“There has been lot of talk about municipalities owing Eskom. But we never talk about government entities and departments that owe the municipalities.
“The departments have to pay to ensure financial viability of the municipality and for the municipality,” he said.