Over 10 000 Joburg residents apply for debt rehabilitation programme so their services are not discontinued
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Johannesburg - More than 10 000 people have applied for the City of Joburg’s debt rehabilitation programme to avoid getting their services discontinued, member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for finance Matshidiso Mfikoe said.
Mfikoe said the city and its residents had fallen on hard times because of the Covid-19 pandemic and tough economic conditions in the country.
She said that the city would be taking applications for this debt-rehabilitation programme until the end of the year. The city has a people-centred budget of around R73.3 billion designed to resuscitate quality service delivery in the middle of a pandemic.
The budget was labelled people-centred because it balanced the needs of the poor in the city and ensured that Joburg remained a world-class African city.
“If you have issues, come to us so we can be able to talk to you. We have been in the Covid-19 pandemic for almost two years, and you have not been able to pay the city for the larger part and owe the city a year of water and electricity; we will cut 50% of that amount immediately then the remaining will be rolled over a period of three years,” Mfikoe said.
Mfikoe added that those who were unable to pay would have their debt written off. But there would be careful considerations before such a concession was granted to a ratepayer. The programme is also open to churches and NGOs.
The increases were as a result of the city battling. “We buy water from Rand Water, and electricity from Eskom so we cannot afford not to increase tariffs when they increase,” Mfikoe said.
She said the Covid-19 pandemic had not only affected residents of the city, but also their staff and services.
“We have had a lot of people being infected by Covid-19 and we try to respond to issues that the communities are raising. The city will continue to work even amid the Covid-19 pandemic,” she said.
Mfikoe said she wanted to leave a legacy befitting of a woman of excellence in her office as MMC of finance and one of those legacy projects was to get to the bottom of the billing issues that some have raised with the city. “One thing I want to deal with is the myth that there is a billing crisis in the city. They will say that there is a billing crisis because when they make queries, we do not respond in time to resolve their queries.
“I’m looking forward to sitting back and saying we came in for six months and we resolved what is called the billing crisis,” Mfikoe said.
She said that she would ensure that the city’s money was spent the right way and with accountability. “... Those who are able to pay ... their rates enable us to ensure the community benefits,” she added.