Other side of Them­be­lihle story

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE - JAMES MAHLOK­WANE james.mahlok­wane@inl.co.za

PROTEST­ING Them­be­lihle Vil­lage res­i­dents who re­fused to pay their elec­tric­ity bills were a mi­nor­ity who wanted elec­tric­ity at the ex­pense of pay­ing ten­ants, said Voltano Me­ter­ing chief ex­ec­u­tive Jo­han En­gel­brecht.

En­gel­brecht was speak­ing to the Pre­to­ria News to give his com­pany’s side of the story af­ter a group of res­i­dents com­plained that they had in­curred high elec­tric­ity bills and their units were be­ing dis­con­nected as they could not af­ford to make pay­ments.

He said the com­pany op­er­ated within the law and reg­u­la­tions set out by the Na­tional En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor of South Africa (Nersa). A to­tal of 12% of the ten­ants did not pay their elec­tric­ity bills and caused the chaos in the area and threat­ened the lives of Voltano em­ploy­ees.

He said em­ploy­ees of Voltano who needed to dis­con­nect elec­tric­ity for non-pay­ing ten­ants were threat­ened ev­ery time they tried to dis­con­nect units that ac­cu­mu­lated a neg­a­tive credit.

He said the mi­nor­ity group that was un­will­ing to pay held his work­ers hostage at Them­be­lihle on Mon­day night, took their prop­erty and doc­u­ments and then forced them to re­con­nect all the dis­con­nected units.

“We pro­vide a ser­vice to many other prop­er­ties and we do not ex­pe­ri­ence this kind of be­hav­iour from ten­ants. Peo­ple who had queries and ques­tions came to us and we showed them their us­age and we com­pared it to their bills and the tar­iffs we are al­lowed to charge. We did ev­ery­thing by the law. Elec­tric­ity is reg­u­lated; you can­not sim­ply charge peo­ple what­ever you want.”

He said tar­iffs charged at Them­be­lihle were checked and ver­i­fied by a City of Tsh­wane rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

En­gel­brecht said Voltano Me­ter­ing was pro­vid­ing a ser­vice to 721 units in Them­be­lihle but be­cause of the mi­nor­ity that did not pay, the com­pany also in­curred ar­rears, be­cause it pur­chased its elec­tric­ity power from the mu­nic­i­pal­ity. He said, if only 620 out of 721 paid their ac­counts there would still be a sub­stan­tial short­fall on the main ac­count. The com­pany said units used an av­er­age of R700 for util­i­ties per month.

“Pre­vi­ously the de­vel­op­ers of­fered to pay a por­tion of the bill on be­half of those ten­ants out of good­will on con­di­tion that they pay the re­main­ing por­tion, but they still did not pay. The (de­vel­op­ers) have now de­cided that they will in­crease their once-off con­tri­bu­tion to­wards their cur­rent ar­rears bill on con­di­tion that they pay the other por­tion.”

En­gel­brecht said he was con­cerned that the coun­cil might end up sus­pend­ing ser­vices to the en­tire premises should res­i­dents not pay their ac­counts.

Fran­cois My­burgh, from Voltano, said ide­ally the com­pany would love to give the peo­ple elec­tric­ity at a re­duced rate, if pos­si­ble. How­ever, he said elec­tric­ity was ex­pen­sive to ev­ery­one and tar­iffs were ap­pli­ca­ble to all South Africans.

He said there was no truth in the peo­ple’s claim that they won a case at a tri­bunal against the com­pany. He said claims that there were bills as high as R18 000 were wrong as the high­est bills were ap­prox­i­mately R12 000. He said the ac­count, in fact, be­longed to a ten­ant who had re­fused to pay since Fe­bru­ary last year and who used more hot wa­ter than any­one else.

En­gel­brecht said Voltano signed a con­tract with Yeast City Hous­ing to sup­ply me­ter­ing ser­vices and will con­tinue to pro­vide the best pos­si­ble ser­vice. He said the com­pany used an ad­vance me­ter­ing sys­tem which its ten­ants could ac­cess on their smart­phones. He demon­strated how the app pro­vided me­ter read­ings to the last hour and even showed ex­act con­sump­tion for elec­tric­ity, cold wa­ter and hot wa­ter. He said this sys­tem of­fered many more ad­van­tages com­pared to cur­rent to­ken me­ter sys­tems – wa­ter leaks are eas­ily de­tected and res­i­dents can re­port faults at any time.

He said the peo­ple were pro­vided with elec­tric­ity and given op­tions to pay in ad­vance (pre-paid) or at month end.


In­ner city low cost hous­ing res­i­dents com­plain of soar­ing elec­tric­ity bills, af­ter some had their power cut at Them­be­lihle Vil­lage.

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