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Municipalities refuse to suspend rate payments amid coronavirus crisis

| Economic factors

Most municipalities have ruled out the possibility of suspending rate payments as part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s disaster management measures aimed at mitigating the impact of Covid-19.

Almost all of the municipalities contacted by the Sunday Independent this week, including the City of Johannesburg and Polokwane Municipality in Limpopo, said they would not give residents a short-term reprieve similar to the one announced by the Stellenbosch Local Municipality in the Western Cape.

 

The DA-run municipality this week said it was suspending rate collections for three months. It added that it would work with residents to repay the principal outstanding debt on reasonable terms and without the accrual of any new interest once the coronavirus crisis was over.

Several municipalities in Gauteng, Limpopo, North West, Free State and Mpumalanga told Sunday Independent that they expected residents to pay for their services despite the closure of revenue customer service centres.

City of Joburg spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane said the customer service centre was closed on Friday.

“Customers are advised to pay their municipal accounts via electronic funds transfer or via any of the city's third-party vendors, ie, Pick 'n Pay, Shoprite Checkers and Woolworths,” Modingoane said.

Those who couldn't afford services should have contacted the City of Johannesburg for arrangements on Thursday, he added.

Emfuleni Local Municipality and Merafong City Municipality in Gauteng also adopted stringent measures.

Emfuleni spokesperson Lebo Mofokeng said customer care offices were closed on March 16 and would be open on April 17.

“But the municipality will request customers to make payment of utilities accounts through the EasyPay facilities at any Checkers, Pick * Pay and the post offices,” she said.

Mofokeng said waste collection would continue as planned with limited resources.

“Waste collection forms part of hygiene and it therefore remains critical in our strategy to curb the spread of pandemic within our municipality.”

Merafong spokesperson Hein Brendenkamp said essential services such as water and waste collection would continue despite the closure of the customer service centre.

“Customers will pay for rates at supermarkets and service support such as call centre and IT would be available should residents need help,” Brendenkamp said.

City of Polokwane spokesperson Thipa Selala said residents were expected to use alternative payment methods.

“The municipality, therefore, encourages consumers to make use of electronic funds transfer and EasyPay at the supermarkets to make payment. The due date for payment of services is the 25th of each month and consumers are encouraged to pay in time to avoid their services getting terminated during this testing period, as the municipality will be implementing credit control measures,” he said.

It would be business as usual at the Ngwathe Local Municipality in the Free State. Spokesperson Steven Nale said the provision of services such as electricity, sanitation, fire and rescue and refuse removal, among others, would continue uninterrupted.

“Pay points and electricity purchases will remain open for shortened hours until 1pm daily. The water distribution to residents through JoJo tanks and water tankers is to be augmented by a request to Sedibeng and Rand Water for additional resources,” said Nale.

According to the Covid-19 National Command Council, chaired by Ramaphosa, services whose closure would endanger the lives of local communities should not be interrupted.

 

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