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Tshwane denies claims its campaign to recoup R17 billion is ’political grandstanding’

Acting city manager Mmaseabata Mutlaneng with Tshwane officials who disconnected the water at a commercial property in Raslouw. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

Acting city manager Mmaseabata Mutlaneng with Tshwane officials who disconnected the water at a commercial property in Raslouw. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 14, 2022

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Pretoria - The City of Tshwane has denied claims that its campaign to recoup the R17 billion owed to it by businesses, SOEs and residents as “political grandstanding”, saying such accusations were nothing more than excuses to renege on doing right without being threatened with disconnection.

The City was responding to claims that its aggressive campaign to disconnect water and electricity supply to businesses and government departments owing it money, led by Executive Mayor Randall Williams and Acting City Manager Mmaseabata Mutlaneng last week was politically-motivated.

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The University of Pretoria was among those threatened with disconnection and the institution blasted the municipality after it was forced to fork out R34 million owed by one of its campuses.

University spokesperson Rikus Delport said the university was a good corporate citizen and had always managed its accounts in a diligent and responsible manner.

Tshwane officials disconnect the water at Lyttleton Shopping Centre which owes the City R750 000. Picture: Jacques Naude African News Agency (ANA)

For this reason the institution was disappointed and appalled at the “irresponsible” way in which the City attempted to cut off the electricity supply on the basis that the university owed it R34m, Delport said.

“This smacks of political grandstanding. The campus is home to among other facilities, student residences, sensitive research equipment, data centres, scientific experiments, and live animals that could have been compromised by power interruptions, especially over a weekend.”

Delport said if anything, the university had already been trying to resolve the issue with Tshwane for months now, without any success, hence a dispute was registered last year.

Fortunately, Delport said, the university was able to pay the amount requested as money was set aside when they became aware of the disagreement last year.

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“Our proactive attempts to engage with the City have been ignored. Despite this, we have committed to pay the alleged outstanding amount, pending the outcome of the dispute.

“The only way we could prevent the interruption was to make immediate payment, despite not receiving prior notice or a detailed account, which was requested from the council months ago.

“We will continue with our efforts to get a proper breakdown of the outstanding amount as we believe that we have paid significantly more than what we owe,” he added.

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City spokesperson Selby Bokaba dismissed claims of the City’s campaign reeking of political grandstanding, asking what was political about being requested to pay for services being used.

Bokaba conceded that the university made the payment of the money within 30 minutes, and was able to send them proof of payment.

While the City had agreed to engage the university on the disputed amount owed, it could, however, not dispute the account, he said.

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“You need to pay and then dispute the amount you feel was incorrect, but you can’t decide not to pay at all and yet you continue to use the services.

“As an institution, when students don’t pay they can expel them but then you continue to use the City’s services and not pay at all simply because you are disputing the amount owed.”

Bokaba said if anything, the responsible thing was for the institution to at least ensure they paid 60% of the account and then raise their issues on the remainder.

“Tshwane is run by a coalition of parties so what exactly is political about requiring residents, businesses, and institutions to pay for the services we provide them. The City could not pay Eskom's bill of R635 million and we buy water from Rand Water so how do we continue to run if people don’t pay?”

Bokaba said the municipality would not waver from its campaign and would push forward with it in phases over the next few months.

This was to ensure that everyone comes to the party and enable the City to resume the many projects it was forced to abandon.

Bokaba also urged government departments renting private properties to take the responsibility of checking whether the landlords had indeed made the payments for rates and taxes.

“At times you find the departments have made the payment to the landlord because they have a budget for these things. However, those property owners do not pay the City. So they need to have someone to monitor that and even demand proof of payment.”

Pretoria News

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