Nothing happens in the land of Parks off
A PREPOSTEROUS letter of demand arrived at the Mahogany Ridge this week. Nkhumeleni Ramada, a revenue collections agent with the City of Johannesburg, writes:
“Gooday, I have been trying to get through to you and I can’t be able to find you. So your account is on arrears of R6 432.89, can you please make the payment in order for you to avoid disconnection.” (sic)
Included was an invoice marked for my urgent attention for rates and services provided by the city for the month of May 2014. A total of R11 533.15 was outstanding, of which R6 433 was due last month, on June 20.
Ramada has some catching up to do. By May this year the amount outstanding was R43 731.
Which is weird, you will agree, for a property I sold back in November 2013 when, in a fit of passive aggression, I severed ties with the mining camp.
In fact, it is not I who owe Johannesburg money, but Johannesburg that owes me; despite the years and months of pleading, cajoling, sarcastic letters, telephone conversations that go nowhere, and what have you, they have yet to refund my rates clearance deposit, which, with interest, is now in the region of R18 000.
Now, there are those who suggest I should cut my losses and forget about the deposit. It’s a small price, they say, for peace of mind, and besides, Johannesburg and all it entails will soon fade from memory given the joys of living on the side of a mountain in deep fynbos country.
Such people are perhaps in need of an enema. There is no peace of mind when the world class African city, as it thinks of itself, insists on billing me month in and month out for services I no longer receive.
I am, of course, aware of those who for a not inconsiderable fee, paid upfront and in full, will act as my proxy and somehow facilitate the recovery of my deposit in a process that should take, say, no more than six months. Or thereabouts.
But I am deeply suspicious of such people. And insulted. How is it that they are able to get the money, but I cannot?
Perhaps they are former municipal or government employees who have set themselves up to further leech off the public sector. How much of the R2 000 I was quoted by one such outfit is slipped into a brown envelope and passed over to some council flunky — not to do anything “illegal”, mind you, just his or her job?
Besides, I have already paid lawyers to act on my behalf and they have handed over copies of the rates clearance figures, confirmation of my payment and the rates clearance certificate as well as my application for a refund and bank details. That’s what happenswhen you sell a house.
So what’s the problem? I wish I knew. In July last year I received a reply, probably in error, to one of my emails. It had been sent to the rates department, but somehow landed up in the mayor’s office where a Shane Govender forwarded it on to a Jimmy Mosefowa with the instruction that he give it the required “assistance and engagment”.
Mosefowa then forwarded it on to a whole bunch of his colleagues, saying, “I would appreciate your advice on the matter.” For some unknown reason I was included in this email chain. Which is how I know about all this chronic buck-passing.
In addition to contact details, Mosefowa’s email signature also included this allegedly moraleboosting corporate hell-speak: “If you are not critisized, you may not be doing much”. (sic)
Which makes no sense. Very little does up there.
But I now have an idea why I have not been refunded. Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau has been using my money to shamelessly advertise himself ahead of the elections next month.
In the last three months he has spent more than R15 million on newspaper adverts across the country in which he foolishly boasts of “Johannesburg’s new economic democracy” and waffles on about “the good hands” running the place.
All lies, of course But, on Thursday, I called them up again. Several times. The telephones at so-called Joburg Connect have the annoying habit of dying halfway through the conversation. This happened while I was explaining my case to Sipho. So I tried once more. I got a Thandi. She said Sipho was busy on another call. Could she take my number and get him to call me back?
I’m still waiting.