Mandela power cut notice shines light on Joburg billing crisis

Mandela power cut notice shines light on Joburg billing crisis

The City of Joburg has admitted that it erred in sending out a pre-termination notice to the Mandela residence in Houghton, stating there were arrears of about R6 000.

The council not only apologised through the media for the error, but sent officials to the Mandela family to personally apologise for the mistake.

It has also said a full investigation is to be conducted into how the error occurred and said action would be taken against those involved.

Although the street address was correct on the pre-termination notice, the suburb was noted as Oaklands, which starts a few streets away from the Mandela residence.

City of Joburg revenue department spokesman Stan Maphologela said: 'The city wants to convey an apology to the Mandela family for any inconvenience caused by this unfortunate incident.

'The address and account number stated on the notice belongs to another customer and property in a neighbouring suburb, not to the Mandela residence.'
This has infuriated Joburg residents who get sent incorrect accounts, accounts with wrong addresses, wrong meter numbers, and have their services cut off on a daily basis, despite reporting errors.

Metrowatch has received scores of complaints from residents, claiming that their addresses had also 'suddenly' been changed after years of living on the same property.

DA billing spokesman Linus Muller said he regretted the 'angst' the Mandela family were going through with the furore around Madiba's municipal bill and the pretermination notice received.

'Although the Mandela family is entitled to an apology, and an explanation and resolution of the query, this emphasises the extent of the billing crisis.

'The city has committed to taking harsh action against the staff responsible for the bungle. It is unfortunate that after years of billing problems, and the embarrassment that more than R1 billion has been spent on the billing system, it is still not stable and now clearly affects all residents of Joburg.'
The council has never provided The Star with a proper explanation for incorrect addresses, blaming it on incorrect information being loaded onto the geographical information system (GIS).

However, a Craighall resident, Jennifer Culpan, has offered an explanation.

After attending a training course on the GIS map guide application, which is a database of all the properties with erf numbers, meter numbers and infrastructure, Culpan discovered her parents' property used to be on land that was subdivided in the early 1960s.

She discovered that the incorrect numbering has to do with original erf and portion numbers on old maps that have never been updated, especially in the case of subdivisions.

After more than 50 years, the number of her parents' house has been changed.

The street number, since 1956, has been 12. The new house on the lower half of their property was 14. Their residential address was 12, the billing address on their accounts 14.

This is the second time in two months that prominent properties have fallen victim to the City of Joburg's billing chaos. In May, the ANC's headquarters was hit with a R3.5 million bill.

The ANC denied it owed the money and admitted that the incorrect bill 'was part of many bills sent out to many residents which were faulty'.

The council said yesterday: 'Currently, customer data is being cleansed and updated and, therefore, occasional errors like this may occur. We wish to apologise to any customer who might have had a similar experience.'

•Residents hit by billing mistakes nuisance

Councillor Tim Truluck says a resident in his ward also got a 'Madiba pre-termination letter'.

Parktown North resident M Gohla-Neudecker got her letter delivered to 18 First Avenue West instead of First Avenue East.

Another resident, Gunther Linzer, says he has the erroneous street address on his utility bill, which has been wrong for several years now. It reads as 177 Ellaline Road, Mondeor, instead of number 18. 'It would be nice to have it finally corrected at some stage before I die,' he said.

City Power has been 16 times to Tracy Smid's property in Craighall Park to record the correct meter number and to take photographs. Two sets of auditors have visited her home, yet her meter number is still incorrect and she is constantly threatened with disconnection and being handed over to debt collectors;
Isaac Pin of Bertsham, Ridgeway, has been receiving phone calls from the council's legal office, saying her account was overdue.

'I asked for the statement and found the postal address was not mine. I am an 85-year-old person and not too mobile, so it is a big problem.'
Lucas Opperman has been living at 77 Deneys Reitz Road, Roosevelt Park, since February 1983, and about two years ago, the address was suddenly changed to 75 Deneys Reitz Road.

'I sent monthly e-mails to the mayor's office, then intermittent e-mails to the council itself about a year ago.' He has received one acknowledgement, but nothing has happened since.

The 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!