The City of Tshwane has cut electricity to Denel’s Lyttleton campus and a building occupied by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) in Pretoria as it attempts to claw back billions of rands worth of debt from defaulting customers.
The City of Tswhane on Wednesday 9 February said “after much resistance” it finally switched off Denel’s Lyttelton campus. The company owed the City R2.4 million.
Today (Thursday 10 February) it said that, “our message is hitting home and resonating with our defaulting customers. Arms maker Denel has just settled their debt after we had disconnected their electricity yesterday.”
Also on Wednesday, the City of Tshwane disconnected the “SANDF Navy headquarters” over a R3.2 million electricity bill. The landlord who owns the building subsequently made payment and the building was reconnected.
African Defence Review Director Darren Olivier pointed out that the Navy headquarters is next to the Department of Defence Logistics Division and it appears they were also cut off. Both buildings are leased from the Bothongo Group by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure – defenceWeb understands the landlord was at fault and the Navy and other tenants claimed they were fully paid up.
“The more I think about it, the less justified the City of Tshwane’s actions are,” Olivier stated. “Not only does the building they cut off include an office of the Hawks as well, but it seems insane to cut off strategic locations without warning. Name and shame, sure, but this is irresponsible.”
Olivier points out that the Defence Act specifies severe penalties against anyone who interferes with the operations of defence facilities, including up to 25 years in prison.
“Obviously, none of this excuses whichever entity hasn’t paid its bills. And cities need to be able to ensure regular on-time payment of what they’re owed. I’m just saying there’s a better way to go about this with strategic locations while still making sure bills are paid.”
Olivier suggests a reasonable public deadline should have been given to strategic facilities to avoid services being cut off. “The issue here is that the City got too stuck with tunnel vision over its ‘without fear or favour’ messaging and neglected to recognise that the Defence Act and National Key Points Act means you do have to treat certain sites differently to others,” he stated.
On Wednesday, Tshwane Executive Mayor Alderman Randall Williams joined revenue collection teams to support them in disconnecting services to defaulting customers. “This campaign is no publicity stunt, we mean business and intend to go after all our debtors. They cannot continue to consume our services for free,” he said.
The City’s debtor’s book stands at R17 billion. This includes R1.3 billion owed by government departments and embassies, R4 billion owed by businesses within Tshwane, and R8 billion by residential customers.
“This week the campaign is targeting government departments, public entities, and businesses,” Williams said, adding that increased revenue collection is critically important to any municipality to effectively run its operations to enable quality service delivery.
Amongst the government entities disconnected on Wednesday were the Commercial Crimes Court (which owes R2.2 million for electricity), the Department of Higher Education and Training (which owes R2 million), and the Department of Water and Sanitation.
The Department of Infrastructure Development apparently owes the City of Tshwane R245 million, and the Department of Public Works owes R110 million.