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Tuesday Feb 05, 2013

Ratepayers' case in Concourt

The Constitutional Court will hear an application today against a judgment in a case dealing with a municipality's ability to terminate the services of ratepayers who refuse to pay their rates and taxes.

Kroonstad resident Olga Rademan, who is a member of the Moqhaka Ratepayers and Residents' Association, declared a dispute with the Moqhaka municipality in June 2008.

Rademan and other members of the ratepayers' association withheld payment of property rates from the municipality in protest over poor service delivery.

She paid in full for electricity, waste removal and other municipal services, but the municipality disconnected her electricity in August 2009 because she had not paid her rates and taxes.

Rademan brought an application in the Kroonstad Magistrate's Court, which ruled that the municipality was not entitled to cut off her electricity.

The municipality appealed against the ruling in the Bloemfontein High Court. It argued that it was entitled to disconnect electricity when a ratepayer failed to pay for the provision of any service in terms of the Credit Control and Debt Collection By-Laws.

This legislation and the Municipal Systems Act showed the municipality had done nothing wrong because it was entitled to do so.

The Moqhaka municipality argued that residents had no right to pick and choose the services for which they wanted to pay.

Rademan argued that in terms of the Electricity Regulation Act, the municipality was not entitled to cut the electricity supply to her property. The high court overturned the lower court's decision.

Rademan then appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal, but it dismissed the case and said a municipality had the option, under the Municipal Systems Act, of consolidating the accounts for various services. The law was intended to prevent residents from electing which municipal accounts they wished to pay.

Rademan has taken the matter to the Constitutional Court, submitting that there is a conflict between the Electricity Regulation Act and the Municipal Systems Act, and that the Electricity Regulation Act should prevail. The municipality contends that there is no conflict and that the Municipal Systems Act should prevail.

Cape Argus

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