Pretoria – The new Tshwane council has started a review of exemptions from rates and services billing that the previous ANC administration is alleged to have handed out, Mayor Solly Msimanga’s office said on Tuesday.
“It cannot be that debt owed to the City of Tshwane by other arms of government goes unpaid any longer,” acting mayoral spokesperson Matthew Gerstner said.
Msimanga would expose these debtors and demand full payment at the end of the review he was conducting. Tshwane needed to collect debts to improve service delivery, he said.
Gerstner was responding to claims the EFF had made that provincial and national government departments, the ANC’s provincial offices and its Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg had not been paying for basic services such as water and electricity for years.
The EFF accused the former mayors of Tshwane and Johannesburg – Kgosientso Ramokgopa and Parks Tau – of shielding the ANC government as some departments had allegedly not paid utility bills for over five years.
Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba’s spokesperson Tony Taverna-Turisan said the ANC had brought its Luthuli House bill up to date, paying R1 million on September 2. The mayor will also revisit the billing crisis that once plagued the city through the establishment of a billing Indaba.
The Gauteng government has expressed concern over the EFF’s statement, stating that it had made a commitment to address challenges around billing and unpaid municipal rates as far back as 2011. In a written response, it said it put systems in place to support municipalities in dealing with the issues, including the creation of a debt committee.
“It functions as the first port of call between the department and municipalities in cases where there are disputes over the disconnection of municipal services because of outstanding debt,” explained the premier’s spokesperson Phumla Sekhonyane.
She said there have been significant improvements in efforts to fast track government debt since the establishment of the committee. She also noted that the Finance MEC Barbara Creecy had set aside funds for this, growing from R300 million in the 2012/2015 financial year to R334 million for 2015/2016.
The EFF called for an investigation into the accounts of government departments and the ANC.
“And if it is found that indeed the defaults have been protected illegally, the two former mayors must be called to account and charged where applicable,” the EFF said in a statement.