Ekurhu­leni in elec­tric­ity spat with flat own­ers

The Star Early Edition - - FRONT PAGE - KHAYA KOKO @khayakoko88

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’

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