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Monday Aug 06, 2018

R17m electricity bill last straw for Brixton resident

A Brixton resident is reeling after receiving a R17 million bill from the City of Joburg for water and electricity.

Nico Niemand at his electricity meter in Brixton. Inset, the bill.

Nico Niemand, who owns two semi-detached houses in the suburb, said he had been battling with an inflated bill for the past three years, but was shocked to receive a bill of over R17m in June, which shows an actual reading for the period between October 3, 2107 and May 29 this year.

Niemand claims that over the past three years he has lost R900 000 in income. He has not been able to rent out the houses because of the constant placing of disconnection notices on his wall.

"People don't want to rent these houses as they are known to be problematic with frequent threats of disconnection. They have been standing empty, with no usage of water or electricity, except for one outside security lamp which uses about R300 a year in electricity."

Niemand has been receiving large, estimated consumption readings. His other semi-detatched house has an estimated bill of R186 000.

Niemand said that three years ago, people arrived at his door in City Power uniforms and said they were there to replace his meter with a smart one, for which he paid R2 000.

"I later found that this meter was stolen and had not been connected to the City Power database. The man who installed the meter assured me he would return with a card, which meant that the meter was registered. But we never saw him again. My municipal bills were fully paid up; in fact, in credit of some R5 000 because I had overpaid," he said.

Also, the number of the smart meter on his property does not correspond with the invoice.

Since the installation of the stolen meter, the property has had sporadic power, with continuous disconnections by the council.

"The city is using fraudulent meters to generate bills. This is fraud and I have laid criminal charges against City Power and the City of Joburg. I have records of more than 30 meetings with the city, including the mayor's office, with no success. I have the names of various officials who attend the meeting, which yielded no action. "They all promise to rectify the matter, but nothing gets done, and the houses are still standing empty.

"I refuse to pay the city anything until this is sorted out," he added.

Niemand visits the property, which was newly renovated a few years ago, daily to check security issues as the houses have been broken into several times.

The Star has received numerous complaints of inflated bills with incorrect meter numbers and invoices. The city has been promising to rectify the billing system, with the resolution dates being extended.

Mayor Herman Mashaba has said on numerous occasions that the billing challenges were far greater than expected. He conceded that the city was facing a number of billing problems, which was the result of "a legacy of a dysfunctional billing system inherited from the previous administration".

The city promised a resolution of all billing problems by March this year, but failed to materialise. The process was delayed even further, following the suspension of the city's member of the mayoral committee for finance, Rabelani Dagada, over alleged irregular appointments. Dagada has subsequently resigned from the DA.

City of Joburg spokesperson Kgamanyane Stan Maphologela admitted there was an error because the original meter had "clocked-over" when it reached 99 000 units. "We apologise for the error," he said.

Anna Cox
The Star


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