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Friday May 04, 2012

Is it a raffle? No... it's a (chaotic) billing benefit

They first gave him a hefty bill.

Then they threatened to terminate services that would have plunged him into darkness and cut off the water supply to his Randpark Ridge home.

Now the City of Joburg wants him to pay R100 of the R13 000 rates bill they say he owes, just so he can stand a chance to have the hefty bill scrapped in a "raffle".

Pensioner Johan Klokow is among the many Joburg residents battling to disentangle themselves from the billing chaos web - "with very little help from city officials".

After spending months seeking answers to how a bill for a home occupied by only two people with limited use of electricity could shoot up from R3 000 a month to R13 000, the Klokows were shocked to receive a letter he views as "extortion", informing him that his billing problems could be solved at a toss of a coin - should he pay just R100 to council debt collectors.

Klokow received the letter, dated April 17, 2012, from VVM Incorporated after refusing to pay the rates bill before the council had rectified its mistake.

"It is outrageous and most probably illegal," Klokow said.

The 67-year-old man, whose house is equipped with a three-phase power system, said his issues with the city started in September last year, "when a gross over-estimation of one of the (three) meters was recorded".

"Despite numerous readings by contract and council staff, the accounts department refuse to rectify it. Invoices reflect the actual readings for two meters but the disputed meter always reflects an estimated consumption figure. Numerous visits to their Randburg office and other efforts failed to resolve the problem," Klokow said.

When he refused to pay until the mess was sorted out, the city threatened to terminate his services.

And that's when he got the VVM letter.

"I haven't (the R100) because I'm insisting that they should sort it out. As soon as they sort it out, then I'll pay. It's not like I'm refusing. I'm a pensioner, so obviously I don't have money to throw around just because people overcharge me. I paid my bill regularly. This is ridiculous," he said.

Council spokesman Stanley Maphologela said the "minimum payment measure" was not a "raffle".

"It is a way for the city to encourage people to normalise the arrears amounts on time. Those are concessions and benefits given to people who are normalising accounts. It is a bid by the city to sort out these issues... giving concessions and encouraging the culture of payments.

The Star

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