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“We really want to pay for services, but unlike white residents, we have ‘black-tax’ and there’s rampant unemployment in the townships, which makes it difficult to keep up with municipal rates.”

“I am the owner of an RDP house. My water and lights are prepaid. I don’t understand why I have a bill of R10 000 from the municipality?”

“How come when we service our debts, instead of the outstanding amount reducing over time, it’s actually going up?”

“I’m a pensioner. I can’t afford to pay for rates and other municipal charges.”

This is how scores of residents who crammed into the tiny Sophie Masite Chamber at the Jabulani Civic Centre responded to officials from the City of Johannesburg, who presented a debt write-off programme on Saturday, 17 August 2019.

Officials were on hand to handle queries from residents and direct them to relevant departments or entities. The city-wide plan aims to rehabilitate the municipal debt of defaulting customers.

“Despite strict enforcement of the credit control policy, the City is faced with a huge amount of outstanding debt and the continuous defaulting by some consumers who cannot afford to pay for services,” said Kgamanyane Maphologela, the spokesperson for the City’s Finance Department.

The City aims to write-off an initial 50% of capital debt, which could include rates, refuse, water, sewer and electricity charges and 100% of interest charged on outstanding debt and any other collection charges such as disconnection fees that may have been levied on customer accounts.

Qualifying customers will be required to complete a form, which is available at any of the City’s Revenue Customer Service Centres and on the City’s website, www.joburg.org.za, and submit it with all required documentation such as proof of employment (payslip) and address, contact details, a certified ID copy and three months’ bank statements.

The write-off is only applicable to residential account holders in arrears for more than 90 days as at 30 June 2019. The combined gross income from all activities of the account holder/s and spouse must be between R4 750 and R22 000 a month; and the market value of the property and all properties owned by the applicant must not exceed R600 000.

A City committee will consider applications for this once-off debt write-off. It will meet on a regular basis to consider applications and residents will be informed of the committee’s final decision.

The balance of the debt will be written off over three years. “However, this will be dependent on residents keeping up with payments, agreeing to routine water and electricity meter inspections; and where applicable allow for the installation of a smart electricity prepaid meter, or the normalisation of a current prepaid meter,” said Maphologela.

The City will roll out several public engagements in all seven regions of the metro before the end of August to ensure that as many residents as possible take advantage of the debt write-off opportunity.