Ekurhuleni in electricity spat with flat owners
A R3 MILLION electricity bill dispute has plunged the residents of three Ekurhuleni flats into darkness following the disconnection of their power four years ago.
The owners of the three flats, in a building home to more than 100 people, have called the council’s disconnection of electricity as “illegal” and accuse the Ekurhuleni authorities of flouting their own by-laws in the process.
George Moloane, Daniel Katywa and Molefe Nkome – flat owners at President Towers in President Street, Germiston – argue that they are being illegally punished by being cut off as they own their flats and have separate accounts and agreements with Ekurhuleni.
Internal email correspondence from Ekurhuleni showed how two officials and a city contractor agreed with the flat owners that they should be reconnected as they complied with the city’s payment “policies and procedures” for reconnection.
But Mpumelelo Dhlamini from the city’s energy department asserted in an email dated November 30, 2015 that the reconnections will not be done as his department viewed President Towers “as one stand, hence will only give them one supply, a bulk supply.
Tenants will have to get power from the owner, and the council will deal with the landlord.”
Dhlamini still refers to the owners as “tenants” despite title deeds showing the three men being indeed owners of their flats.
Dhlamini added in his email that he was carrying out an instruction from the finance department.
However, Florah Matlosa wrote in an email dated December 11, 2015 that her department had had a meeting with the owners.
The letter was sent to Pauline Sibiya in the energy department. Matlosa wrote: “We tried every possible means to assist them in resolving the issue, which was to have them pay the outstanding amount owing to their accounts with a requirement of paying a downpayment and signing of an arrangement.
“They (the owners) complied with this requirement in line with our policies and procedures.”
Matlosa said in her letter that it “became difficult” to reconnect the owners as their building’s electricity supply is sourced from a bulk meter and the entire building was disconnected.
She added: “The matter was referred to Energy to try and reconnect the three clients since they have signed an arrangement. Energy declined to assist them as (Energy) mentioned that they cannot reconnect individuals in that building.”
Matlosa’s email followed a similar plea from another city official, Sarah Sekete, who is the service delivery liaison and protocol officer.
Another letter from Lilitha Engineering’s Sabelo Mhlungu, Ekurhuleni’s power contractors, to the energy department and dated November 2015 stated that the three owners appeared on the company’s reconnection list.
Ekurhuleni’s spokesperson Themba Gadebe acknowledged that meetings were held with residents of President Towers between December 2015 and February 2016, where it emerged that the body corporate was “dysfunctional”.
Gadebe added that in terms of the Sectional Title Act, it was the body corporate’s responsibility to manage “bulk supply of municipal services”, and the building owed an amount of R3 219 054.27.
He also said two of the body corporate’s trustees, Alfred Nkadimeng and Vincent Khumalo, had launched a high court application to appoint a Jan van der Bos as administrator of President Towers.
However, one of the flat owners, Moloane, said the city was acting illegally by contradicting section 34(2) of its energy by-law, which loosely stipulates that each consumer is financially responsible for their own electricity consumption, and not the consumption of others.
By combining the building’s debt with theirs, Moloane said, Ekurhuleni was disregarding its own laws.
‘We tried every possible means to assist them’