Maverick Citizen

UNCOOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE

Angry Cradock and Middelburg residents demand special council meeting over blocked electricity meters

Angry Cradock and Middelburg residents demand special council meeting over blocked electricity meters
Protesting continued for a second day in Cradock, Eastern Cape. (Photo: Supplied)

The Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality has refused to unblock anybody who is not up to date with rates and taxes. A councillor said residents had called for a special council meeting to be held by Friday to discuss the new measures and ‘for public anger to calm down’.

Cradock and Middelburg residents, whose prepaid electricity meters have been blocked for a fortnight due to “credit control” measures, have called for a special council meeting to discuss the issue.  

The Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality has refused to unblock anybody who, according to its records, is not up to date with rates and taxes unless they pay 25% of their arrears.  

However, residents are now required to pay arrears going back more than a decade as the municipality had failed to send out accounts. 

In a letter signed by community leaders, residents spelt out their grievances.

They demanded that all debts older than three years be scrapped.

“You as management have failed residents by not reminding them of their responsibility monthly to pay these debts that you come and demand now. We are in no position to pay these exorbitant amounts and therefore demand that it be written off in its totality.

“We will start paying on debts incurred in the last three years. Failure to comply as we demand, we will cease to pay any services to the municipality as is done by Wards 1, 2 and 3 [the poorest wards in the municipality],” the letter reads.

Public protests in Cradock and Middelburg started on Monday and the busy N10 road was blocked by protesters burning tyres. 

The municipality has, according to the latest figures supplied by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Zolile Williams, upped its collection rate to 70% and, according to Williams’ spokesperson, Pheello Oliphant, had collected R12-million since December.

Councillor Monde Desha said residents had called for a special council meeting to be held by Friday to discuss the new measures and “for public anger to calm down”.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Court orders municipality to reconnect Cradock man’s electricity after ‘disconnection spree’

Desha said the new “credit control” measures taken by the municipality were not in line with its policy. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cradock municipality to splurge R1.4m on luxury cars for mayor and speaker despite facing financial collapse

The Inxuba Yethemba Municipality has been flagged as being in financial distress by the Auditor-General’s office. According to the latest Auditor-General report, its liabilities exceed its assets by R469-million. The Auditor-General said the municipality was losing about R25-million a year because of its poor collection practices.

The Auditor-General also flagged how the mismanagement of public funds had led to an estimated R200-million in unauthorised, irregular, and fruitless and wasteful expenditure. 

Cradock businessman Ben Schenk obtained a court order to compel the municipality to unblock his electricity meters which had been blocked in error, but the municipality has refused to do so. It is understood that an application for contempt of court against the municipal manager will be heard within the next few days.

Police spokesperson Colonel Priscilla Naidu said on Wednesday that two cases of malicious damage to property had been opened at the Cradock Police Station after two buses were stoned while travelling between Cradock and Tarkastad on Monday night. DM

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