ELECTRICITY: 12% OF TENANTS DON’T PAY
Other side of Thembelihle story
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.