Maverick Citizen

ELECTRICITY CRACKDOWN

City Power threatens to cut power at two Joburg hospitals over R30m debt, but MEC disputes ‘inflated’ bills

City Power threatens to cut power at two Joburg hospitals over R30m debt, but MEC disputes ‘inflated’ bills
Rahima Moosa Mother and Child Hospital. (Photo: Papi Morake / Gallo Images) | City Power staff inspect an electrical cabinet as they disconnect illegal power supply in Johannesburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | A member of City Power's revenue protection team prepares to disconnect illegal power supply in Johannesburg. (Photo: Leon Sadiki / Bloomberg via Getty Images) | Helen Joseph Hospital's emergency unit. Johannesburg.(Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

City Power confronted executives at the Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa Mother and Child hospitals as part of the utility’s crackdown on defaulting and non-paying customers, and warned that others too are in for an ‘unpleasant visit’.

Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa Mother and Child hospitals are in the crosshairs of the City of Johannesburg’s power utility as it intensifies efforts to collect what it’s owed.

In a visit to the facilities on Thursday, City Power said it had “made it clear that failure to pay in the next two weeks will result in immediate cut-offs”. 

Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa owe more than R23-million and more than R7-million, respectively.

However, Gauteng health MEC Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko says the payments have been processed but delayed because the “inflated” bills are being disputed. 

City Power said on Thursday that its officials had served the executives of the two institutions with pre-termination notices. The executives had “echoed the MEC’s sentiment, saying they have already started the process of clearing their debts”.

The Gauteng health department owes R421-million to local municipalities for electricity, of which R387.5-million is due to Johannesburg. 

Nkomo-Ralehoko was responding to a media query about the debt, following Thursday’s National Health Council briefing.

These weekly cut-off operations across the City of Johannesburg are aimed at sending a strong message to defaulters that City Power will not tolerate non-payment.

“On the issue of the payment of municipal services, we are paying now. I know you think we don’t pay but only two invoices were outstanding, Rahima Moosa and Helen Joseph, because we were disputing those two invoices for two months. We believe we were being overcharged. We must understand why we are being charged that amount. With Rahima Moosa we are going to pay, that is already on the run,” she said.

The MEC added: “Every service provider we used to owe, as the Gauteng department of health, we are paying them, we have money to pay. If we are not paying it is because we have a dispute with your invoice, we can’t pay people who don’t show us what they have done.”

Crackdown

The City said on Thursday that its crackdown on defaulting and non-paying customers was in full swing, with this week’s cut-off operation hitting various areas falling under City Power’s Hursthill Service Delivery Centre. These areas owed more than R1.3-billion.

“Today we were targeting 10 business and residential customers owing a total of R13-million in unpaid electricity bills.

“One of the businesses that were disconnected during the operation is Telkom, which owes over R2.9-million. Shockingly, the company has not made any payment for their electricity bill since 2021.”

Another business that had been cut off was Ancient Oak Trade & Invest, which operated a pub in Melville and owed more than R1-million.

“This customer was found to have illegally reconnected the power supply on a few occasions. As a result of that hefty penalties will be imposed before she is reconnected.

“Less than an hour after we cut off supply, the owner of the business contacted City Power, admitting that she failed to pay. She has agreed to settle the debt on the account and pay the fine for illegal reconnections.”

The City’s statement added: “City Power is concerned with the levels of non-payment from government institutions. We will be clamping down on these defaulters as we intensify our revenue collection drive.”

Government properties “across the city” owed “over half a billion rand”.

City Power had reminded other customers to settle their bills “before we pay them an unpleasant visit”. 

“These weekly cut-off operations across the City of Johannesburg are aimed at sending a strong message to defaulters that City Power will not tolerate non-payment. It is also an opportunity for City Power to recover the revenue it needs to continue to provide essential services to the city’s residents and businesses.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Joburg city officials cut illegal power to hijacked buildings, and more from around the world

The DA’s Gauteng health spokesperson, Jack Bloom, said premier Panyaza Lesufi should step in to ensure all provincial government departments pay their municipality bills on time as this has been a sore point for many years. 

“The news that Johannesburg council has served pre-termination notices on two hospitals for outstanding electricity payments highlights the need for the Gauteng health department to pay their bills like everybody else.” 

“I presume that serving notice on hospitals for payment is only a pressure tactic as it would be inhuman to cut electricity to a hospital.” DM

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