Joburg set to stop cut-offs after group goes to court

Joburg set to stop cut-offs after group goes to court

The City of Joburg is set to halt its spate of electricity and water cut-offs after it was served with an urgent interdict this week.

The Property Owners and Managers' Association (Poma) an organisation representing the majority of property owners in Joburg's inner city, obtained an order from the Johannesburg High Court calling for, among others, the suspension of cut-offs where there are legitimate queries on the city's chaotic billing system.

And now it has emerged that after a meeting between Poma and council officials this week, an out-ofcourt settlement is likely to be reached.

Maurice Crespi, managing partner at Schindlers Attorneys, which represented Poma, did not want to discuss the details of the settlement but said they were likely to be announced next week.

"All I can say for now is there will be an outcome which will extremely beneficial to consumers," he said. "They (the city) have committed to meeting their legal obligations and our discussions were not only about a solution but dealing with the overall problem."

Crespi said his expectations were that the city would agree to the residents' demand on suspension of cut-offs, where there were legitimate queries.

The group of inner-city property owners applied for the interdict following the spate of disconnections over the past few weeks which have affected thousands of people, despite most of them having valid queries on their accounts.

The interdict called on the city to: ensure that it issues correct accounts; gives proper readings and not estimates for more than six months, as per its by-laws; issue regular and accurate accounts; post or deliver the accounts to correct addresses; gives owners a reasonable time, or 20 days, in which to pay; gives a proper 14-day notification of cut-offs; and, not cut off water completely.

Poma members claimed the council's chaotic billing system was destroying efforts by private investors to rejuvenate the inner city.

Chairman Renney Plit told the Saturday Star's sister newspaper, The Star, this week the interdict was not only being applied for on behalf of about 250 000 tenants in the inner city affected by cutoffs but for other residents of the city.

"We are simply asking the council to adhere to its own by-laws. Our tenants in the inner city have been badly affected by the workings of the council.

"We have had services cut off in buildings where the council claims that there are huge amounts owing", Plit said. People had been forced to climb 16 flights of stairs because there was no electricity to power the lifts.

"Our tenants have also been without water for days because of disputes on the accounts. We have been appealing to the council to work with us – we are trying to rejuvenate the inner city by offering decent accommodation to lower-income earners, but it has been thwarting our efforts at every turn," Plit said.

The city had until next Monday to submit its answering papers to Poma's urgent application for the interdict.

City spokesman Nthatisi Modingoane said he would only comment once he had spoken to the council's legal department to hear the latest on the matter.

At the time of going to print he had not responded to the Saturday Star's inquiry.

Saturday Star


Denny Crane

Denny Crane
It's not me ... yet. Denny Crane from the TV series Boston Legal. Click on picture if you're not sure who he is!