The Buffalo City Metro council wants its administration to stop blocking electricity supplies to indigent customers who fail to pay their accounts.
It further wants the mayor to investigate the blocking.
This comes after Bob Naidoo, acting city manager at the time of compiling a report on indigent customers, told the council there was nothing wrong with blocking the power supply to them as it was stipulated in the metro’s existing credit control policy.
The council asked Naidoo to explain the decision, which left hundreds of residents, including indigents, without power in April.
Sister newspaper Daily Dispatch reported at the time that BCM had cut off hundreds of residents, including indigent people, because of unpaid electricity bills.
“This action [of blocking] has a direct effect on the collection ratio,” said Naidoo.
BCM’s revenue collection is under threat as the metro managed to collect only 87.4% by March, a drop of 4.3% when compared to the same period in the last financial year, when it managed to collect 91.7%.
According to the BCM policy, indigent customers on the prepayment system have to pay the current monthly account due before they can buy prepaid electricity, and 40% of the amount paid for electricity would be “held back” and allocated to arrears debt.
Naidoo said failure to comply with the requirement would result in violation of the policy and that failure to comply with the policy could result in disciplinary procedures.
However, agitated BCM councillors rejected the report and asked for it to be withdrawn from the agenda.
ANC councillor Sindiswa Gomba said the council should investigate why BCM continued to block the accounts of indigents in King William’s Town even after they had paid.
Ward 45 councillor Thozamile Norexe pleaded with Mayor Xola Pakati to tell his staff members to “stop blocking the indigents” while the investigation was under way.
“We are tired of people crying to us. I am pleading with this council, with our mayor, to stop blocking them please,” said Norexe.
Councillor Thembinkosi Apleni of the EFF and ANC ward 24 councillor Zameka Kodwa-Gajula supported Norexe’s plea.
Kodwa-Gajula said: “The executive mayor must instruct officials to stop blocking indigent people.”
BCM spokesman Samkelo Ngwenya said the definition of an indigent household in BCM was determined from time to time by the council.
“This means that in monetary terms a [household] must not earn a combined income of more than R3000 per month, and also, they qualify for rate discounts, plus 50 free electrical units monthly.
“The whole idea behind this is to ensure that people are not marginalised along bread and poverty lines.
“This country faces many serious challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
“As a result, it becomes important for a government whose posture is pro-poor to look after those who were discriminated against.”