Shack dweller vows not to pay ‘mystery’ debt
“I WILL rather die than pay for services to a home I have never lived in, let alone knew I owned.”
This was the vow made by Siphiwe Shongwe, an Ekurhuleni shack dweller saddled with a municipal rates bill of more than R20 000, accumulated over 20 years for a property she never lived in or knew she owned.
On Friday, The Star reported on Shongwe’s plight of discovering only in 2010 that she owned an RDP house in Tsakane Extension 11 after being refused credit owing to the “mystery” debt.
The Brakpan municipality confirmed that she had owned a house since October 1997, where her debt had ballooned to R16 659 in 2010.
Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe said Shongwe’s “debt” currently stands at over R20 000, adding that she was liable for it, as the Tsakane house was registered in her name.
“The outstanding balance is R24 410, and R21 153 of that amount was handed over to debt collectors. Payments received were insufficient and irregular. In the past seven years, only R6 900 was received,” Gadebe said.
He did not, however, provide details as to who had been making these payments over the past seven years.
Gadebe also did not answer questions as to whether the council ensured that the occupants of a property were the rightful owners, who should be paying services.
Asked whether she was the one who had been paying the council since finding out she owned a house, Shongwe asserted that she had not paid “a single red cent” to Ekurhuleni, saying she would rather die than do so.
“They (Ekurhuleni) can even arrest me if they want to. How can the municipality expect me to pay for services I have never used? Why doesn’t the municipality go to the current occupants of my house and ask them to pay for the services?” she asked.
“Where I stay right now there is no running water or a flushing toilet. I don’t even have electricity. But I’m expected to pay for people who enjoy luxuries that I don’t have. That is unfair.”
The 51-year-old lives in a shack at the Lindelani informal settlement. Her two sons also have shacks there.
Shongwe said she moved to Lindelani in 2012 shortly after her mother’s death and had to fetch her children from Phongolo, KwaZuluNatal, where they had been living with her mother while Shongwe was renting a back room in Wattville, Ekurhuleni.
“I couldn’t stay with them in the back room. A relative was kind enough to offer her a shack and property. I had to borrow money from my employer so I could build the two shacks for my sons. That is the only place I can get a loan because I have been blacklisted everywhere else,” she said.
Phillip de Lange, leader of the official DA opposition in council, said he had raised Shongwe’s struggle in the council, including allegations that Morris Chauke had “sold” Shongwe’s house to its current occupants.
Chauke is currently the chairperson of the ethics and integrity committee.
Gadebe described the allegations against Chauke as an ongoing smear campaign against him.
It’s alleged a councillor ‘sold’ her house to its current occupants
‘IT’S NOT MY DEBT’: Siphiwe Shongwe at her home in Ekurhuleni’s Lindelani informal settlement. Shongwe lives at this property even though she legally owns a house.